The teacher contract to be voted on Monday by the Lawrence school board moves starting salaries in the district above $24,000.
Members of Lawrence Education Assn., which represents the district's 850 teachers, easily ratified the 2000-2001 contract by mail ballot. It contains an average 3.3 percent increase in salary and benefits.
Last year, Lawrence teachers received a 3.5 percent increase in compensation.
LEA President Wayne Kruse said teachers deserved better, but union negotiators didn't hold out because it was evident no wiggle room existed in the budget.
Interim Supt. Randy Weseman said this year's labor talks helped convince the administration to launch an unprecedented effort to scrutinize the budget for money that could be invested in teacher salaries in 2001-2002. The systematic analysis of expenditures begins in September.
That fits with the district's goal to recruit and retain quality educators, he said.
"It doesn't matter how you split that hair," Weseman said. "Salary is a major element in attracting and retaining good people."
The agreement adds 1.3 percent, or $286, to each teacher's base pay. That would put beginning salary for teachers at $24,029.
An increase of 1.7 percent was set aside to compensate teachers moving up the salary scale. The remaining 0.3 percent reflects a $10 increase in the district's contribution to employees' health-care benefits.
Union leaders had requested a 3.8 percent overall increase, with a 1.8 percent raise in base pay.
Weseman and Kruse said they were pleased with a provision of the contract that stipulated teachers must be consulted by administrators before districtwide adjustments are made in teacher workloads. The concern is time demands haven't kept pace with salary enhancements.
"There is a sense of looking forward," Weseman said. "That's the spirit of this."
In other matters, Weseman said the district would staff a telephone hot line (832-5000) in August to help parents find answers to questions about class assignments, school boundaries, bus routes and other topics. The first day of school is Aug. 18.
He also said the school board would try to adjust its agendas to reduce the frequency of late-night meetings. For example, Weseman was appointed interim superintendent by the school board shortly before 1 a.m. May 9 -- six hours into the meeting.
"A public meeting is not a public meeting at 12:30 at night," he said.
The board convenes 6:30 p.m. Monday at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.