School board approves teacher contract
SUMMIT COUNTY – The Summit School Board voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a new three-year master contract with the district’s teachers.
Major points of the new contract include raising the base pay for all teachers in each of the next three years and adding four more days to the school calendar.
The board members discussed contract details in a closed session at the end of the regular school board meeting at Dillon Valley Elementary. Details of the discussion were not available, but Superintendent Wes Smith said he is proud that the new contract balanced the teachers’ salary schedule and made Summit competitive with other districts in the state.
“I’m really pleased with the board’s approach to this contract,” Smith said. “We’re bringing additional resources to bear in a very balanced way – what teachers need and balancing the needs of students at the same time, as well as parents and the community getting the programs they expect.”
Hours before the vote, the team of teachers who negotiated on behalf of the Summit County Education Association membership explained the details of the tentative contract to other teachers. Association president and high school teacher Joel Hecht used SHS’s auditorium to present a slide show explaining the negotiating team’s priorities, salary increases and other contract details.
Hecht said he wished more teachers, especially younger ones, had attended the discussion, but said he expected a larger audience when the association meets to vote Monday. Some scheduling conflicts kept some teachers from attending.
Teachers from the negotiating team fielded questions Wednesday from association members and gave their perspective on the deal. The teachers generally voiced approval of the deal, as it funneled about $1 million in new school funding to salaries, added professional development days to the calendar and protected faculty health benefits.
“There are a lot of positives in this contract,” Silverthorne Elementary teacher and negotiating team member Sioux Barr told the teachers, citing the absence of a salary cap and salary incentives for continuing education.
Some negotiators and teachers, however, also see negative aspects in the contract. In questioning the contract team, some teachers asked why class sizes were not discussed in negotiations and said their classes were becoming uncomfortably large.
District officials sold voters on the idea that the November mill levy increase would greatly benefit teacher salaries. Teachers also questioned whether that promise had been fulfilled. The cost-of-living increase and salary increase featured in the mill levy were spent as promised, but some teachers – “a vocal minority,” Hecht said – wanted to know how increases from the state’s school funding formula and Amendment 23 (passed by voters across the state) would be spent.
“The school board has a number of priorities,” said middle school teacher and negotiator Janet McDermott. “They have programs to pay for, school resource officers and other contingencies. These are priorities the community needs to question.”
McDermott recommended that teachers accept the contract in Monday’s vote. She said there are points the association’s negotiators would like to continue discussing with the school board and that the contract includes clauses for reopening negotiations. District and teacher negotiators already have indicated they will continue to discuss issues such as time for faculty collaboration, defining conditions for personal leave and granting new teachers credit for past experience.
Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 237 or email@example.com.
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