Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Teachers’ union approves new contract

Agreement provides for 1.25 percent pay increase

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County School District officials and representatives of the Blaine County Education Association completed negotiations last week on a new contract that provides for a 1.25 percent pay increase for teachers. Courtesy photo

    The Blaine County Education Association overwhelmingly approved a new contract Monday with the Blaine County School District that provides a 1.25 percent pay increase for teachers beginning in July.
    The vote was 115 in favor and four opposed. Only a simple majority was required for approval.
    The agreement, reached Friday after four days of negotiations, also provides for a one-time .25 percent payment to teachers in December and provides for continuation of the district’s “steps and lanes” program, wherein teachers can move to a higher salary grade with increased years of experience and by furthering their education. Furthermore, the district agreed to absorb at no cost to teachers a 7.6 percent increase in health-insurance benefit costs.
    The proposed contract was scheduled to be considered for approval by the district board of trustees at its regular monthly meeting Tuesday night. According to the meeting agenda, the school board was also to consider whether the pay increase would be applied to all district staff, including administrators, such as has historically been the case.
    District Business Manager Mike Chatterton said the new agreement, if applied only to teachers, which are often referred as “certified staff,” will cost the district just over $1.158 million. That number includes $408,400 for the 1.25 percent base salary increase and the .25 percent one-time December payment, $544,600 for continuation of steps and lanes and $205,715 for increased insurance costs.
    If the school board approves applying the same provisions to all district staff, Chatterton said the total cost will be about $1.65 million.
    The 1.25 percent pay increase, which would become applicable on July 1 with the beginning of the school district’s 2015 fiscal year, follows another 1.25 percent pay increase that became effective on July 1, 2013.

    Negotiations, as provided by Idaho law, were open to the public. However, according to a district press release, public attendance was sparse and included only one news media representative for part of one day and a few district staff and members of the board of trustees.
    Discussions began on Thursday, May 1, and continued on May 2. They were further continued on Thursday, May 8, and concluded on May 9. All sessions were held during daytime hours, a situation that Tryntje Van Slyke, president of the education association, said Tuesday might make it difficult for the public to attend. She said holding evening sessions was discussed during negotiations as a way to make it easier for other teachers and the public to attend.
    Teachers representing the education association, often referred to as the teachers’ union, were Van Slyke and association representatives Maritt Wolfrom, Jamie Harding, Beth Andrews, Erika Greenberg and Liz Young.
    The School District was represented in negotiations by Chatterton, interim Superintendent John Blackman, Trustee Kathy Baker, Hemingway Elementary School Principal Don Haisley and district Director of Curriculum Angie Martinez.
    Both Van Slyke and Chatterton said negotiations went well.
    “I always appreciate negotiating with the BCEA because it’s always amicable and agreeable,” Chatterton said. “We’ve always seemed to find common ground on all of the issues.”
    “I think we did a good job on both sides,” said Van Slyke, who added that she was pleased with the results.
    “It’s an increase, and everything helps when you’re trying to keep up with the economy,” she said.
Terry Smith:

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