Relief is how Adela Solis and Frank Harwood describe the feeling of finally coming to a tentative agreement on a contract for Lawrence teachers.
The contract features a 2.9-percent raise and incorporates a coveted day of planning for elementary teachers. A disputed day of professional development was dropped from the contract.
Solis, president of the Lawrence Education Association, and Harwood, the school district's chief negotiator, were on opposite sides of the negotiating table, but both said they were pleased to have a contract, which was brokered by a mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service late Wednesday night. Talks stalled in June, and a meeting Monday failed to bring negotiations to a conclusion.
"People's lives are occurring as we speak," Solis said. "People are trying to set budgets ... and you can't do that until you know what numbers you're looking at."
"Neither side got exactly what it wanted, but it was lot more of a compromise," Harwood said.
The total cost of the teacher raises this school year is about $1.1 million. This includes $162,000 in compensation for a planning day. The school board authorized more funding for Harwood to negotiate the raise.
A first-year teacher with a bachelor's degree made $33,550 last year; this year a teacher with that experience will make $34,523. A five-year veteran with a master's degree made $36,660 last year. This year the salary will be $37,661.
Incorporating planning compensation into the salary was not something LEA wanted, but Solis said it was a compromise.
"Negotiation is conversation and conciliation," Solis said. "We both, I believe, got good things out of this."
The contract still has a few loose ends, and needs to be ratified by LEA members and the school board.
The raise will go into effect after the contract is ratified and is retroactive to July 1.
Both sides agreed to institute one day of elementary planning time at some point during this school year.
At Monday's negotiation session, Harwood said it would be difficult to institute this piece of the contract because content specialist teachers would have to be brought in to teach classes while other teachers were planning.
The district's proposal to add one day of professional development was struck from the contract. This was a major sticking point for teachers, who balked at the idea of not being compensated for the extra day.
On the issue of leave time, the current structure remains. Teachers receive 10 days of leave a year, including five for personal use. They can use no more than three days consecutively. This measure is set to expire June 30.
Teachers required to earn academic credits will be compensated $50 for each credit that does not assist them in moving up on the salary scale.
For instance, if a teacher needs 10 hours to move vertically on the scale but earns 15 hours in additional credits, that teacher would earn $250 for his or her efforts.
Still up in the air is language involving additional assignments, such as advising clubs. The two sides did agree on a 2.5 percent raise for teachers involved in district work outside the classroom.
On Monday, negotiations yielded plans for a post-employment contribution program. Veteran teachers can elect to enroll in the new program, which allows them to be 100 percent vested in the district's program after six years. Teachers starting this school year are automatically enrolled in the program.
Before the contract is ratified, both LEA and district negotiators will meet to hash out the final details.
"The only thing that could cause a problem is that if one side or the other went away with a very different understanding," Harwood said.
The school board will move to ratify the contract in September. Solis said she hoped LEA would accept the agreement before then.