District, teachers reach tentative agreement | RecordCourier.com
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District, teachers reach tentative agreement

by Merrie Leininger, staff writer

After months of finger-pointing and refusing to negotiate, the Douglas County School District and the teachers have a tentative agreement for a two-year contract.

Those involved in negotiations said they agreed not to talk to the press. District Personnel Director John Soderman said he was happy an agreement has been made, but refused further comment. Douglas County Professional Education Association spokesman Marty Cronin refused to comment.

Calls to the school board members were not returned as of press time/.

The district issued a statement through Communications Coordinator Maggie Allen at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. According to the press release, the agreement still has to be ratified by both the teachers and the Douglas County School Board. The teachers will meet at the CVIC Hall Sept. 6. The board will consider ratification at the next scheduled meeting, listed Sept. 12. Allen, who said she was not involved in negotiations, said the contract is a two-year agreement, so negotiations will not take place again until 2001.

Teachers are working under the same terms of the previous year’s contract – the ’98-’99 pact which expired June 30, 1999.

State law does not allow teachers to strike. The contract, if ratified, will cover the school year just completed, and the current school year.

The main sticking point in negotiations was the teachers’ request for a 4.7 percent salary increase.

The district agreed to give a 1 percent salary increase of the 1998-99 salary schedule by October and a 1 percent bonus on the schedule for all contracted, certified teachers employed as of Sept. 1, 2000. A 1 percent increase will also be made to all stipend salaries.

The district also agreed to 15 days of sick leave for family illnesses. The district will pay for the increase in employee insurance rates for 2000-01.

The teacher’s association agreed to a six-week window for teacher position transfers, to clarify and limit maternity leave to six weeks for normal delivery and eight weeks for cesarean section delivery.

The teachers also agreed to a policy change that would allow a school administrator to request doctor verification for sick days.

In December, the teachers declared an impasse – bringing an end to all negotiations – because the district was not negotiating in good faith and asked that an arbitrator be chosen.

The district promptly filed a complaint with the state Employee Management Relations Board, saying four meetings had not been held – the required number of meetings for impasse to be declared. If this agreement is ratified, the labor hearing will not be held, Soderman said.

Under that contract, a teacher with no experience and a bachelor’s degree starts at $28,446 before taxes in Douglas County. At the other end of the scale, a teacher with 20 years or more of experience and a masters degree plus 32 credits earns $52,224 a year. Teachers with a doctorate earn $52,724.

All teachers also receive health, accident insurance and retirement pay. There are 458 teachers in the district.