Friday, May 16, 2014

Board approves teacher contract

Trustees vote to extend pay raise to all district employees

Express Staff Writer

    The Blaine County School District board of trustees voted 3-0 Tuesday to approve a new contract with the Blaine County Education Association that provides for a 1.25 percent pay increase and an additional .25 percent one-time bonus payment in December.
    The new contract, negotiated between the district and the teachers’ union in four day-long sessions that concluded on Friday, May 9, was ratified by the union members in a vote of 115-4 late Monday afternoon.
    The new contract, which goes into effect on July 1, also provides for continuation of the district’s “steps and lanes” program, wherein teachers can move into a higher salary grade through years of experience and by furthering their education. Further, the School District agreed to fund at no cost to teachers a 7.6 percent increase in health insurance benefit costs.
    Board approval came at the board’s regular May meeting Tuesday evening.
    “I think that we came together for the best interests of the district,” said board Vice Chair Kathy Baker, who served as one of the district representatives in contract negotiations.
    Immediately following approval of the new contract, the school board voted 3-0 to extend the pay raise and other provisions of the contract to all district staff.
    Board Chairman Shawn Bennion explained prior to the vote that extension of contract provisions to all employees has been the “historical” practice of the district.
    “I’m of the opinion that I feel we should carry on that provision,” Bennion said. “The finances are there and we are fortunate to have the staff that we do to allow the educational opportunities to our students.”
    District Business Manager Mike Chatterton told the Idaho Mountain Express earlier this week that approval of the new contract will cost the district $1.158 million annually. He said that extending the contract provisions to all district employees will increase the total cost to about $1.65 million.
    Trustee Elizabeth Schwerdtle abstained from voting on either measure concerning the contract. She explained later in an email to the Express that she has a sister who is a teacher “so there was a possible conflict of interest.”

2 file for board vacancy
    In other business, Bennion reported that the district continues to work toward filling a vacancy in the Zone 4 trustee position, following the resignation in January of former Trustee Paul Bates. Two previous attempts at solicitation of applicants living within Zone 4, which includes west Ketchum and areas north of Hailey and west of state Highway 75 all the way north to the Custer County border, have been unsuccessful since there was only one applicant and that applicant withdrew prior to being interviewed by the board.
    According to state law, the board can now seek applicants living anywhere within Blaine County. The deadline for applying is Friday, May 23, and the board tentatively plans a public meeting for Tuesday, May 27, to interview applicants.
    “As of right now, we do have two applicants who have submitted their letters of interest, and, barring any taking their letters back, we will be interviewing on the 27th,” Bennion said. “We are excited to get back to a fully functioning five-member board.”

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