‘I wish we could give them more’ | SummitDaily.com

‘I wish we could give them more’

summit daily news
Special to the DailyLast year, Summit Schools ranked third in average teacher salary when compared with Boulder's public schools and seven other resort-area school districts in Colorado. Comparisons for the current year and next year are not yet available.

SUMMIT COUNTY ” As the clock crept up on midnight Wednesday, the Summit School Board unanimously approved a new three-year teacher contract.

“We all feel very good about it,” board president Kristy Johnson said. “I was most excited at the way everyone worked together (in negotiations). It was tough that we just passed a mill levy, yet there wasn’t a lot of money for staff.”

State funding for local schools will increase by only 1.1 percent next year, hardly close to keeping pace with increases in fuel costs and health care. Consequently, negotiators had little room for maneuvering.

Summit teachers will receive a 1 percent increase in their base salaries next year. And they’ll be eligible for some additional pay based on their years of service and course credits they earn, bringing the average total increase to 3 percent.

An important caveat, though, is that teachers can easily spend a decent piece of the course-credit bonus just by earning the credits in the first place, said Janet McDermott, president of the local teachers’ association.

“We all know what education costs,” McDermott said. “If I’m planning to go down to CU to take some courses, my average cost is about $925. You can take that right off the top of that 3 percent raise.”

Under the 2002-2005 contract, teachers at the low end of the district pay scale receive annual compensation increases of about 6 percent to 7 percent per year, and those on the upper end receive annual raises of 3 percent to 7 percent.

“I’m glad we were able to give them 1 percent, and I wish we could give them more,” Johnson said. “I’m glad to see that both sides were able to give a little, and renegotiating in a year is a smart move.”

In hopes that the state funding situation might change in coming years, negotiators have agreed to revisit salaries and benefits next year.

“I told the teachers it’s all about next year and the future,” McDermott said. “I look forward to the state funding public education responsibly and teachers being able to receive some of those moneys.”

While teachers aren’t doing cartwheels over their salaries, they did make important gains in other areas, including expectations for teacher workload, which can increase under the weight of meetings, committees, after-school events and activities and a host of other obligations.

“It creates some definitions for extra duties and compensated duties. This is the first time we have language that allows a teacher to say ‘No,'” McDermott said.

– The 2005-2006 base salary will be $31,252 (up 1 percent from this year’s $30,943).

– The new contract contains a salary ceiling of $65,000. The previous contract contained no ceiling. Teachers who hit the ceiling won’t receive an experience-based annual pay increase, but they will be eligible to receive extra compensation for taking college courses or other professional development.

– Employees who leave the district will be paid for up to 90 unused sick days at a rate of $16.50-$66.00 per day, depending on number of years of service in the district.

– Teachers will be eligible to receive extra pay for having taken professional development courses every other year, rather than every year. But teachers completing a master’s program will be eligible for the extra pay each year for four years.

– The district will assume the increased cost of providing employee health care (estimated at $300,000) and will not pass the cost on to district staff.

– The district will cap the number of employees eligible to receive longevity pay.

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