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Archive for Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lawrence school district, teachers move closer to work agreement for 2011-12

July 26, 2011

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Negotiators for the Lawrence Education Association, seated at the table at left, and representatives for the Lawrence school district, seated at the table at right, go through potential language for the 2011-12 master agreement, which would govern compensation and working conditions for 926 licensed educators in the district. This session was July 21, 2011, at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.

Negotiators for the Lawrence Education Association, seated at the table at left, and representatives for the Lawrence school district, seated at the table at right, go through potential language for the 2011-12 master agreement, which would govern compensation and working conditions for 926 licensed educators in the district. This session was July 21, 2011, at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.

Teachers in the Lawrence school district are moving closer to getting pay raises for the coming school year, as they continue to seek improvements in health-insurance coverage or compensation.

Negotiators for the Lawrence school district and the teachers’ union, the Lawrence Education Association, plan to meet at 5:30 p.m. Thursday to continue work on a master agreement for the 2011-12 school year.

The two sides already have reached tentative settlements on a number of monetary and operational issues, including the biggest one of all: combined pay raises of $1,250 for each of the district’s 926 licensed educators. Educators would get $250 added to their base salaries, then another $1,000 one-time payment just before Christmas.

“People feel pretty good about the progress being made,” said Rick Ingram, after he and fellow board members met behind closed doors Monday night to discuss ongoing negotiations.

Two topics remain points of contention, and remain to be settled: fringe benefits and teacher evaluations.

“We’re still negotiating,” said Deena Burnett, the union’s president.

Both sides have clashed over the cost of fringe benefits, particularly health insurance. The district now pays $378.16 each month per covered employee, the value of one month’s premium for an individual; the union originally wanted that increased to $500, then lowered it to $450.

The district originally wanted to pay only $333.68, the cost of the same coverage for the coming year, then revised the offer to go back to $378.16. Employees would get to pocket the difference — equivalent to $44.48 per month — in the form of a one-time payment.

The union sees room to compromise: The district can stick to its current payment of $378.16, but employees should be able to use the difference — the $44.48 per month — either to purchase improved coverage or reduce the price of having family coverage, said David Reber, the district’s lead negotiator.

That way employees could be using the savings for health, Reber said, and therefore avoid having to pay taxes on the money.

“There are lots of options for where that money could go,” Reber said.

Teacher evaluations also remain a contested topic, although Reber sees room for compromise there, too.

For the past two years, a joint committee of teachers and administrators has been working on revising the district’s methods for evaluating teacher performance, so that the process includes more self-evaluation by teachers. The district has pushed for the process to continue, while the union has argued that it should stop — unless the district would agree to change the way it decides which teachers get let go in the event of layoffs, known as a “reduction in force,” or RIF.

The union could back off its push against the RIF process, at least for now, provided that the district understands that the union still opposes it and intends to bring it back up again next year, Reber said.

Thursday’s meeting will give both sides a chance to compare notes, and potentially reach a tentative agreement.

“We’re getting really close,” Reber said.

Comments

fanaddict 2 years, 8 months ago

I'm pretty sure that legally there can not be any talks of classified pay at these certified negotiation meetings. (Someone please correct me if I'm wrong). It was brought up by the teachers negotiations team at the last meeting (as a...'Hey, I know we can't negotiate for them, but what are your thoughts on this..) and then was squashed very quickly because the board simply could not talk about it in that setting.

I think there was some talk by the board of using parts of the 3 million or so the government is making the board spend on classified salaries (which would be wonderful, because the classified staff deserves raises big time, IMO).

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Tracy Rogers 2 years, 8 months ago

Exactly, just because teachers are negotiating for their salaries doesn't mean they don't appreciate what classified staff does. Everyone knows how important they are. But if you want the same benefits as teachers and a seat at the negotiating table, go get your degree and get a position as a salaried teacher.

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nascar 2 years, 8 months ago

Absolutely! Students would suffer without support staff. Historically, when teachers have negotiated for salary and benefits, the district has also applied the same percentages and benefits to classified staff. Not always, but generally. When this doesn't happen and positions are eliminated or people are furloughed, the angst should be directed at Topeka. I don't know of a single teacher, worth their salt, who is not appreciative of classified staff.

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momfromlawrence 2 years, 8 months ago

I totally agree with you ClassifiedPeon. Teachers would be lost without their support staff. I would like to see the teachers speak up for those they count on daily. The teachers feel like they are the only ones not getting paid what they are worth. What about their support staff who lost a day of pay, haven't had a cost of living raise in years, and taking on more responsibility because the district eliminated positions to save money to pay for the teacher raises?

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ClassifiedPeon 2 years, 8 months ago

How about something for the classified support staff that had to be furloughed along with the administrators (still trying to figure that one out) last year. The teachers got a raise and we got a pay cut through a loss of a work day. The teachers seem to think all we do is sit around all day. It would be interesting to see just how long this district would stay operating if the support staff were to take a week off during the school year. No printshop, no network, no janitorial, no help with computer problems. My guess is teachers would soon realize that they aren't the only ones that work in this district. Maybe then they wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the laying off of support staff so they can get a raise.

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eulahoward 2 years, 8 months ago

You do your best to keep your children healthy, but sickness and accidents are a part of life. Getting health insurance for your children gives you peace of mind knowing they have health coverage when they need it. Search one the web "Penny Health" for kids they are the best.

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