Teachers and district reach agreement

Sean C. Morgan

The School District 55 bargaining team and the Sweet Home Education Association bargaining team, representing teachers and other licensed employees, have reached a tentative agreement with no increases to salary and benefits for the 2011-12 school year.

The agreement includes a zero-percent adjustment to the salary schedule and no change to the district’s contribution to insurance premiums.

The district pays $880 of a licensed employee’s insurance premiums. That amount is prorated for part-time employees.

Eligible licensed employees will receive a step increase on June 30, 2012, the last day of the fiscal year.

This means that staff members will not receive a step increase for the 2011-12 school year but will be on the correct step entering the 2012-13 school year, said Business Manager Kevin Strong.

Four days, unpaid furlough days, will be cut from the 2011-12 school calendar. The district will still meet all requirements for class time.

Also in the agreement, insurance for new hires will begin on the first day of the month following 30 days with the district, Strong said. Previously, insurance for new hires began on the first day of the month following being hired.

That means new hires will be eligible for insurance on Oct. 1 rather than on Sept. 1, which was the case previously.

“I’m impressed with how our entire staff – teachers, classified employees and administrators – have worked together to get us through difficult financial times,” Strong said. “As a district, we’ve had to deal with a financial one-two punch due to decreased tax revenue and declining enrollment.

“Fortunately our staff has agreed to make compensation sacrifices to avoid deeper program and staff cuts. It’s encouraging that we’re not having to lay off dozens of staff members, like many school districts, to balance our budget.”

“We understand that the district’s financial situation does not allow for salary increases,” said SHEA President Lisa Canaday. “We also understand that had we taken a salary increase, or our step increases, the district would have been forced to make decisions regarding staff.

“Eliminating staff to fund raises is not something we are interested in doing. As it stands, class sizes are increasing. The elimination of certified or classified staff would negatively impact the classroom.”

The union and the School Board will decide whether to ratify the contract in August or early September.

This will be the second year that teachers will receive no increases to the salary schedule or benefits.