Archive for Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Eudora teachers ratify contract

December 12, 2007

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Eudora school teachers have ratified a contract - for this school year.

"We realized it was the best offer the board was going to give us, and the teachers voted to accept it," said Bob Sailler, Eudora Middle School teacher and president of the Eudora National Education Association.

The teachers' contract approval, which came in voting on Friday and Monday, ended a four-month impasse.

"I would anticipate that this will be ratified Thursday night," said Superintendent Marty Kobza.

The contract will increase the base teacher salary by $1,200 - from $31,400 to $32,600. Benefits will increase by $10 - from $240 per month to $250 a month, and reimbursement for college tuition will double, from $300 a year to $600 a year.

The district can offer new teachers more than the salary schedule dictates, if a critical demand exists.

Kobza said he still wants to improve the agreement but is happy to have a contract.

"Anytime we can come to an agreement and have a fresh start, it's a big weight off everyone's shoulders - teachers included," he said. "It's a positive step forward, and we've still got a ways to go."

One area in which the ENEA would like to see an improvement is how much teachers' wages increase as they gain experience and education.

Kobza said that 70 percent of the teaching staff has fewer than 10 years of experience. So, adding to the base salary was a benefit to the largest group of teachers.

"The board's intent was to impact as many staff members as they possibly could and to the greatest extent," he said.

However, Sailler said the district would be able to retain and hire more veteran teachers when it paid more for teachers who gain experience and further their education.

Both sides already are looking forward to beginning contract negotiations for the 2008-09 school year. Proposals are due Feb. 1.

"There are some weaknesses, and we'll address those in the next round of negotiations," Sailler said. "But we are encouraged that the bond passage will free up more money."

Kobza said although a $45 million school bond that voters approved Nov. 6 must be used for new facilities, it could have an indirect benefit to teacher compensation.

"By passing the bond, our hope is that it will make us more efficient as a district and there isn't as much money going into trying to keep buildings that are in need of a lot of repairs operating," he said. "Because of that, we're able to do some things with the budget that can help us out."

Though teachers weren't completely satisfied, Sailler said they were pleased negotiations are finished.

"We're happy to have contracts, and happy to be teachers," he said.

- Eudora News reporter David Oakes can be reached at 542-2747.

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