Mitchell teachers negotiate raises for 2-year dealThe local school board and teachers’ union reached a tentative agreement Monday that will cost the district about $285,000 more next year, or $570,000 over the life of the two-year contract. Mitchell Education Association chief negotiator Curtis Smith said the agreement must be approved by the MEA membership. About half the district’s 200 teachers are MEA members, he said.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
The local school board and teachers’ union reached a tentative agreement Monday that will cost the district about $285,000 more next year, or $570,000 over the life of the two-year contract. Mitchell Education Association chief negotiator Curtis Smith said the agreement must be approved by the MEA membership. About half the district’s 200 teachers are MEA members, he said.
“Overall, I think we’re pretty happy with most of it,” Smith said, but he added that some reservations remained about a few teaching assignments at the high school.
The MEA negotiating team included MEA President Darrel Anderson Amanda Chada Deb Everson, Pat Moller, Ralyna Schilling and Smith. The board’s team consisted of school board President Brenda Freidel, board member Dana Price, Superintendent Joe Graves and school district attorney Rodney Freeman.
The agreement was reached after four negotiating sessions.
“In previous negotiating sessions, the board met with us three times and then gave us their ‘last-best’ offer. This time they were willing to meet for a fourth time, and it helped,” Smith said.
The two-year agreement includes:
• A $1,250 across-the-board salary increase each year for full-time teachers.
• Starting with the 2013-2014 school year, two additional professional development days will be added to the school calendar.
• Speech therapists with a master’s degree and American Speech-Language-Hearing Association certification will receive a $2,200 increase in salary for the 2012-2013 school year.
• New language in the agreement gives the administration permission to have a few teachers at the high school teach six classes and use the student responsibility block — a Tuesday, school-wide study period at the high school — as their planning period, without extra pay. Teachers typically teach five classes and are paid extra for teaching a sixth class. Graves said the language will give the administration some planning flexibility that did not previously exist.
Freidel said the district’s full negotiating team met face-toface with the MEA team only during the first session. In the next sessions Price, Freidel and Graves remained in a nearby room and attorney Rodney Freeman relayed the board’s wishes to the MEA team.
Freidel and Price were both pleased with the tenor of the negotiations.
“I think it went really well,” Freidel said, “mostly because we had a single negotiator in the room.”
The tactic was criticized in an MEA news release.
“It’s hard to talk about the issues when you’re dealing with someone who’s not part of the district,” Smith said Tuesday.
Freidel and Price both said Freeman kept the negotiations moving and focused. “It allowed us to focus on the issues without having personal- or egos involved,” Freidel , adding that with millions of taxpayer dollars at stake she would not have entered negotiations without Freeman’s experience and expertise.
The district spent about $10.57 million during the 2011-2012 school year on teacher pay and benefits. The two-year contract will push that figure over the $11 million mark. The MEA press release said insurance increases will eat up large part of some employees’ raises.
“The $1,250 increase in salary is much better than the $1,000 decrease in salary that had last year, but it should be noted that increases in health insurance (6 percent) and dental insurance will cost an employee who is taking the family insurance about $1,000 more in premiums in 2012-2013 than in 2011-2012.”