District, teachers resolve near yearlong contract dispute
After almost a year of hard negotiations, both the Eudora chapter of the National Education Association and the Eudora USD 491 Board of Education have come to terms on a contract for the 2005-2006 school year.
At the same time, both parties also reached a contract for the 2006-2007 school year ---- thus preventing a repeat of the months-long struggle that ultimately led to an impasse and a highly contested fact-finding hearing.
Although the final form of the salary might be a sore spot for some teachers, Superintendent Marty Kobza welcomed the resolution of the dispute that left the district free to prepare for the coming school year.
"It really is a good situation for both the district and the teachers from the standpoint of we know what resources we have to work with when it comes to furnishing classrooms, ordering text books or software, and all those other things it takes to run the school district," Kobza said. "We have a definite number to work with ,so to speak, so it's not up in the air."
For the 2005-2006 school year, the teachers agreed to accept a salary schedule based on a base rate of $30,200 and $200 per month in defined benefits.
For the following year, teachers accepted the district's offer of a pay schedule with a base rate of $31,400 and $240 in insurance per month.
All combined benefits and raises led to a total 6.35 percent increase for the teachers during the 2005-2006 school year.
Throughout the negotiation process, the district pointed to the overall percentage increase as being within the middle of the pack compared to salary increases elsewhere in the state.
The offer came during a closed session meeting Thursday following a fact-finding hearing last month.
"The tone was very professional," ENEA president Bob Sailler said. "It was very good to have Mr. Kobza at the meeting to discuss budgetary issues."
The meeting also gave both sides the chance to incorporate the findings of Frank Ybarra, who presided at the fact-finding hearing last month.
"Generally, the most difficult issue to resolve in contract negotiations is the question of salary," Ybarra wrote in the fact-finding summary. "The position is certainly not easy in this impasse. The association made a compelling argument about salary increases.
"Its comparisons are appropriate to this situation. The Board's standard was generally the ability to pay when the 'total picture' of district needs is considered."
After assimilating evidence from both sides, Ybarra suggested the ENEA back down on its request of a higher base salary ---- originally starting at $30,400 ---- and that the Board accept the requested monthly benefit increase to $240.
Ybarra also suggested the district change wording on a policy that led to reduced planning time for some of the district's teachers.
"We accepted his recommendation, but the board chose not to," Sailler said.
After Thursday's meeting, the ENEA met Saturday to put the district's offers to a vote.
Although in the end the association decided to accept the board's offer, Sailler said he still felt disappointed the teachers didn't get a more competitive salary position in regard to the surrounding area.
"Considering the way things went this year, we felt the offer for next year was acceptable," Sailler said.
The board met again during a special meeting the following Monday to finalize the agreements for the 2005-2006 school year and the 2006-2007 school year.
"The board is excited about the positive nature of the two agreements with the teachers and looks forward to continuing to make our district one of the best in the Midwest," Kobza said.