Highlights of year-long negotiations

Amid sounds of joy and relief, a call came shortly after 6:30 a.m. on April 1 saying there was a tentative agreement in the negotiations between District 9 and the Eagle Point Education Association. That call from the district was followed by an e-mail from Debbie Brudevold, on behalf of the EPEA, reaffirming the news. Ratification by union members is expected Apr. 7 with approval by the D9 Board of Directors at their Apr. 8 meeting.

Informal bargaining began on March 12, 2008 with the first formal session on Apr 22, nearly one year ago.

A look back over some of the information follows. At that first session staff was offered a 2% increase along with the 3.4 step for certified and 4 to 4.5% percent for classified in each of three years. The district offered to pay $890 per person per month for insurance for 2008-09 and increase it  $20 a month for each of the following two years.

The district had increased employee salaries a minimum of 12 percent over the previous three years to make them more competitive. At that first session, which lasted four hours, four articles were settled.  The district offered several articles for the association to consider. Among them was the sick leave bank, which remained a problem for the year of negotiations.

The next bargaining session was scheduled May 19, but cancelled due to illness. It was rescheduled to May 27.

Five months into negotiations, little progress had been made and the district announced they had declared an impasse and would ask for a mediator. Sessions with the mediator began Aug. 22. 

Sept. 17 was the third session with the mediator. Video surveillance was noted as a real concern to the union, as it was in the previous contract negotiations. This remained an issue nearly to the end of the year-long negotiations.

EPEA wanted 2% salary increase plus COLA (cost of living) and steps. The district’s offering to certified staff at the end of a three year contract was noted as a 16.41% increase, according to the district. Other possible monetary benefits noted by the district included an education step, longevity pay at step 14, which was noted as 3% of the teacher’s base salary and at year 18, that percent increased to 5%.

New teachers in 2007-08 who take 15 additional credit hours each year would see a 27% increase in three years in the salary, which would start at $33,604.

Classified staff could see an 18 to 21 percent increase in three years.

Administration salaries were increased by 3%. They do not get steps or longevity pay.

The Oct. 6 session was one of the several marathon sessions, lasting 10 ½ hours. During that time the district said they approved travel allowance for meals and transportation.

Working conditions became a major topic of discussion, with no resolution. The district asked that Wednesday be a regular 8-4 p.m. workday. They asked, “Teachers recognize it is their responsibility to attend professional development opportunities and attend to professional obligations which may fall outside the regular work day, such as IEP meetings, parent meetings, open house, faculty meeting, staff development on Wednesdays.

EPEA countered with, “Teachers will not be required to perform these obligations outside the normal workday more than twice a month nor more than 30 minutes beyond the normal workday.”

Sick leave and sick bank continued unresolved. The next session was Nov. 3.

At the Jan. 7 session, the district presented a new compensation plan based on concern for future budgeting and the general economic condition of the state.  For 2009-10, if the district receives $6,587 per student funding, all eligible employees would receive a step increase or longevity. If the per student figure is $6,673 eligible employees would receive the step, longevity and, the 08-09 salary would be increased by 2% for 2009-10.  And if the district received $6,708 employees would also get insurance contribution of $930 per month.

The bargaining team said the offer was “an extremely regressive proposal.” 

The EPEA bargaining team gave the district a counter offer: It was for a 3.65% salary increase and $960 on insurance for the first year; CPI no less than 3% the second year with $1,050 in insurance and there were several language items.

At the Feb. 10 session, the district offered a 1.5 percent COLA for the current year, with at least a 2% COLA in the second and third years. And if funding and enrollment was adequate, there would be a potential of a 2.5 percent increase in the second and third years.

The district offered $11,256 ($938 per mo.) insurance per employee and by the third year, that figure would be $11,736. And the district said it would pay insurance for those who work at least half-time and for new full-time employees.

Administrators volunteered to a salary reduction (not taking the 3% increase) and will freeze their salaries for the next two years.

The district has cut $2 million from the budget and said they were working to cut another $2 million before June 30. They were also looking at cutting up to 12 school days by June and for the next school year there could be 35 or more staff positions eliminated.

The next session was scheduled Mar. 4.

The Mar. 4 session was 13 hours in duration. The concept of a small group from each team meeting during the session began. By this time, the district was offering up to $11,856 in insurance.

The district said if enrollment or state funding falls below a minimum level, they would freeze pay and insurance and reopen negotiations.

On Mar. 21 the EPEA indicated some of the items agreed upon included: overtime, job share, video surveillance, meetings with administrators after being involuntarily transferred, sick leave, extra duty and criticism in private.

But the length of the contract remained very much an issue, as did insurance pay. The district was offering $958 per month  in 09-10 while the union wanted $1,010. The district would require a household where both were insured to use just one member as the key person for the full family coverage and offer the other partner $135 a month in a Section 125 Plan.

One of the issues was more instructional time at the high school to meet state requirements. For some period of time the district understood that the “early bird” class meant they had adequate instructional time. That was found  not to  be the case and therefore more instructional time was needed.

As they entered the Mar. 31-Apr. 1 15-hour marathon, the union said the district had added another fact proposal to increase instructional time by nine minutes at the middle school.  This was three minutes more than allowed in the contract (or amounted to 30 seconds a class period). Other issues of concern to them was limiting the use of the sick leave bank and limiting the union’s use of district e-mail. They did agree to increasing the high school instructional day by 24 minutes.

The final night of negotiations saw “mini” meetings between part of the district team with part of the union team and with the mediator. By 9 p.m. (Just six hours into the 15-hour session) revised agreements amounting to two 70+ page documents from the union and about half the number of pages from the district had been passed back and forth-and the night of negotiating was still young.

Although the only thing we can safely say about the conclusion of the negotiations was that a tentative agreement was reached and we all remain hopeful that after the Apr. 8 school board meeting there will be a contract signed by all parties.
Nancy Leonard
Of the Independent

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