School board OK’s raise for teachers, administrators

The District 55 School Board ratified contracts giving 2.8 percent raises to teachers and administrators Monday night.

The Sweet Home Education Association had previously ratified the four-year contract. Administrators received the same terms for salary and insurance as the teachers.

In the second year of the contract, teachers and administrators will receive between a 2.5 percent and 4 percent salary increases, based on the Consumer Price Index.

The district’s insurance contribution went from $800 to $830 this year and will go from $830 to $880 next year.

The contract includes a re-opener for the third and fourth years of the contract. The district and teachers will negotiate salary and insurance and be able to bring up to three contract language items to the table during that time.

The contract takes effect retroactively starting on July 1. The previous contract expired on June 30. Negotiations started in April.

Among their goals, teachers wanted to create a sick leave bank to allow them to transfer sick leave from those who don’t use it to those who are facing catastrophic illness.

The district and teachers agreed to allow teachers to donate up to a half day of sick leave and a half day of personal leave to employees with a catastrophic or life-threatening illness. The sick teacher must use up his or her own leave, and after losing five days pay, other teachers can start donating their time.

“They wanted a sick leave bank,” Supt. Larry Horton said. “We wanted to be compassionate.”

“We think this will address it,” SHEA President Dan Swanson said.

The contract also evened out the percentage increases in the salary schedule, for annual steps and for educational steps, he said.

The educational step is 4.5 percent per year. The steps across the education columns are 4.375 percent per level.

“We’re happy we’re done,” Swanson said. The teachers were asking the district to bring them to or closer to average pay, but “we found that it’s very hard to agree what average is.

“We came to an arrangement based on what’s happening in the economy, what we felt was achievable.”

At first, the economy looked good and strong, Swanson said, but by October, it had changed and was significantly declining. The teachers started cutting what they were asking for and started asking what is achievable.

The contract package will cost the district approximately $200,000 this year, Business Manager Kevin Strong said. The administrators’ contracts will cost approximately $30,000.

The board voted 8-1 to ratify the contract and 8-1 to approve raises for administrators. Chanz Keeney voted no. Voting yes were Dale Keene, Jeff Lynn, Diane Gerson, Leena Neuschwander, David VanDerlip, John Fassler, Jason Redick and Chairman Mike Reynolds.

At this time, with the economy where it is, Keeney told the board, “I can’t see anybody getting raises. In this economy nobody’s getting any raises. Things are changing so fast, do we even know what our budget’s going to be next year?”

“Given the economy you’re talking about,” Horton said, he asked the board to freeze his salary this year. He also asked that, rather than contributing to his annuity, the board add that to his salary instead. The board agreed.

In other business, the board:

— Approved the recommendations of a committee on “intramural” elementary school athletics, which was exploring the idea of developing a district-sponsored elementary sports program among local schools.

While he held differences with the committee’s conclusions and recommendations, Keeney joined the board in voting unanimously for the recommendation. Keeney initially raised the idea to the board.

The committee found that parents appear to have an interest in an intramural program operating after school, but with tight funding, it would be difficult, even with volunteers helping run the program. With that in mind, the board chose to table the program “until the funding picture improves.”

The board also decided to use elementary PE teachers to run a unit in track near the end of the school year with the idea of running a district-wide track meet for the fourth through sixth grades and school meets for the first through third grades in May. If successful, the district may do similar programs in basketball and other sports.

— Approved the 2009-10 school calendar. School will start on Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day. It will end on June 17, with Spring Break running from March 22 to March 26 and Christmas break running from Dec. 21 to Jan. 1.

— Announced that five positions are open for election this spring. Filing deadline is March 19.

Open positions include Holley, held by Keeney; Liberty, held by Lynn; and three at-large positions, held by Redick, Gerson and Keene.

For more information, contact the Central Office at 367-7126.