Lawrence public school teachers cast their ballots Wednesday and overwhelmingly voted to accept a contract offer for the 1998-1999 school year.
``We had a very high turnout,'' said Lois Orth-Lopes, president of the Lawrence Education Assn., the bargaining unit for the district's teachers. ``It was one of the highest we've had in years.''
More than 600 of the 791 teachers eligible to vote cast a ballot, Orth-Lopes said. The exact tally was unavailable.
The contract includes a 4.2 percent pay raise and the expansion of ``collaboration time'' for teachers.
Collaboration time is a program in which students are released early every Wednesday to give teachers time for staff and curriculum development, and educational planning. It already is used in five of the district's elementary schools, and would expand to include all elementary and junior high schools throughout the district.
``Teachers had strong views about the salary proposal and the article creating weekly collaboration time,'' Orth-Lopes said.
Under the negotiated salary guidelines, a beginning teacher with a bachelor's degree would make $23,310 in the coming school year, compared to the $22,770 paid to rookie teachers this year.
The contract still must be ratified by the Lawrence school board before it goes into effect.
``We look forward to the board ratifying this on June 8,'' Orth-Lopes said. ``We're very encouraged by this.''
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