Contract negotiations aren’t always easy but sometimes, the stars align and things come together quite nicely, which appears to be the case regarding the new teachers contract between ISD 110 and the Waconia Education Association (WEA) that was unanimously approved by the Waconia School Board on Monday, Sept. 9.
The contract covers school years 2013-14 and 2014-15. District officials and members of the WEA, which is the bargaining agent for the teachers contract and local affiliate of Education Minnesota, started meeting in June and held approximately eight meetings of varying lengths to hammer out the details.
The tentative agreement was sent to the teachers in late August to give them a minimum of 10 days to review the contract before voting was held on Thursday, Sept. 5. WEA members overwhelmingly voted to ratify the contract, which passed on a 207-19 vote (representing a 91.5 percent approval rating).
The three-month process for this contract was considerably shorter than the last teachers contract, which covered the school years of 2011-12 and 2012-13 and required mediation before being approved in May 2012.
Both sides indicated their satisfaction with the agreement. During the meeting, both Chairman Brian Rothstein and Director Keith Griffin expressed their appreciation for all of the hard work both sides put into the negotiations, which they felt were transparent and collaborative.
Sonya Sailer, Director of Human Resources for Waconia Public Schools, who served as lead negotiator for the district, and Dave Aeling, chief negotiator for the WEA, echoed those thoughts.
They jointly stated that they were pleased with the terms of the contract and found the agreement to be competitive, which is important for the district to attract and retain outstanding teachers while maintaining the district’s commitment to fiscal responsibility. Sailer and Aeling were also pleased with the timing of the contract, noting that the last time the teachers contract was settled prior to the school year was in the early 1990s.
“It’s one of the best negotiations we’ve had in a long time,” Aeling said. “It turned out very well.”
According to a summary provided by Sailer at the meeting, the agreement includes step advancement and a 1.5 percent increase on the salary schedule for both years of the agreement. The former 21-step salary schedule was reduced to 18 steps in exchange for an increase to the teacher work week. The added work time will be utilized for professional training, learning communities, review of student data, instructional planning and preparation, and other needs as determined at the building and department level.
In terms of health insurance and other benefits, Sailer reported that in Year 1, the district’s monthly contributions to health insurance will be increased by $47.50 for single plans, $63 for single + 1 plans, and $79 for family plans. The district’s contributions for those plans will be increased by $50, $68 and $85 in Year 2. Beginning in Year 2 of the contract, only full-time teachers will be required to purchase at least single health insurance coverage.
Retiree health insurance benefits will be increased by $60 per month beginning in Year 2 of the agreement. A teacher’s lifetime maximum for the district’s annual matching 403(b) contribution will be increased to $45,000.
In other highlights of the contract, teachers who agree to teach a full year overload class during their preparation period will recognize an $830 increase. Two senior teachers were added to what has been commonly referred to as the “Bridge” and all inactive teachers were removed.
Sailer also reported that language was added to clarify that association leave could not be used for time absent to attend any meeting, hearing or other activity connected with a grievance. The district may now grant experience credit to new teachers for related professional history outside of the public school setting. Also, an advisor for a new academic challenge club was added to the extracurricular list.
Paul Henn, president of the WEA, and Superintendent Dr. Nancy Rajanen were both pleased with the outcome of the negotiations.
“I felt like the district and negotiators did a fantastic job of working collaboratively to get the contract finished to start the new two year cycle,” Henn said. “I appreciate all of the hard work, effort, and compromise it took to get this finished to start the year and new contract cycle. It’s a great way to start of the year with positive news and be able to move forward with all of the great things the district and its teachers are working on!”
“I am very pleased to have the collective bargaining agreement settled in such a timely manner,” Rajanen said. “More importantly, I’m pleased that both parties feel there were positive gains in the agreement. We look forward to the professional growth opportunities that will be afforded to our teachers, because we know that our students will benefit as a result.”
• For more information on other items discussed at the school board meeting, see next week’s Patriot.
Contact Todd Moen at [email protected]