School district, teachers reach agreement on contract | SummitDaily.com
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School district, teachers reach agreement on contract

by Reid Williams

How will Summit teacher salaries compete with a new contract? Here’s how they compare now:

School district Base Masters Masters + 15 years

Eagle County $30,000 $33,300 $46,999

Jackson Hole $27,500 $31,500 $44,500

Steamboat Springs $25,926 $29,652 $42,780

Summit County $24,058 $28,388 $39,214

Lake County $23,481 $25,908 $33,054

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What’s next:

The school board is scheduled to review the tentative master contract for teachers at its regular meeting April 24.

Teachers will review the contract at a Summit County Education Association membership meeting some time in the next week.

SUMMIT COUNTY – It was a long, long day of negotiations, but the Summit School District and the teachers’ association reached a tentative agreement on a new master contract Tuesday.

The new contract, good for the next three years, is expected to boost teacher salaries and provide them with more training and professional development. The specific agreements reached in the marathon session at Keystone’s Lodge won’t be made public, however, until the school board and the teachers’ association approve the contract.

“We had a very productive day, a hard-working 12 hours,” said Superintendent Wes Smith. “There were some difficult points, but we got through it.”

Summit County Education Association negotiator Janet McDermott said she agrees with Smith that the contract agreement is in place and that both sides seem to be satisfied. McDermott said she’ll take the tentative contract to a teachers’ meeting within the next week.

“It’s hard to say how they’ll react – I think it’s a bit premature to say,” she said.

Smith added that, although the final negotiations took half the day, there were no great disagreements on details. The problem, he said, is there are so many details.

“You think it’s all about a few figures,” Smith said. “But it’s about a lot of issues that have to do with the employment of 240 people and a bureaucracy. It gets pretty detailed.”

The school board is scheduled to review the preliminary contract at its regular meeting April 24.

School board representatives and teachers’ association representatives met five times prior to Tuesday’s final “get-it-done” session. In previous meetings, each side shared goals for what they wanted to see in the contract as well as priorities for those goals. The groups negotiate a “master” contract that includes all teachers; most school districts negotiate contracts with individuals, and a master contract is seen as a sign of cooperation.

A major focus for both sides is improving teacher pay. Principals in Summit schools have voiced concerns in the past that a low base salary and a pay structure that favors veteran teachers makes it difficult to attract qualified new teachers.

“The first thing we have to ask applicants is, “Do you know what the starting pay is?’ And, “Do you know how much it costs to live here?'” Summit High School co-principal Peg Kastberg said Tuesday at an education reception at Alpine Bank in Dillon. “It’s tough.”

In November, voters made negotiating salary increases easier by approving a $10 million tax increase for the school district. The ballot initiative included a $650,000 cost-of-living adjustment. State legislators made allowances for such an increase after lobbying from Eagle County education officials who face hiring challenges similar to principals in Summit.

The mill levy also included an additional $475,000 administration officials said would be used to add school days and pay for teacher training. While it means more workdays for teachers, it also means more pay.

The contract negotiations may not have been completely pleasant, though. In March, the school board voted against funding sabbaticals for teachers during the next year. The previous master contract says the board must consider funding them, but it is not required to budget the necessary money. School board members who voted no in the 4-3 decision said they were concerned that paying for sabbaticals when teachers were counting on raises, and the fiscal uncertainty of recent years, would not be responsible. The decision angered association representatives.

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 237 or rwilliams@summitdaily.com.


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