Teachers approve new contract terms
Eudora USD 491 teachers ratified terms of a contract for the 2007-2008 school year as the first semester nears its end.
"We realized it was the best offer the board was going to give us, and the teachers voted to accept it," President of the Eudora National Education Association and Eudora Middle School teacher Bob Sailler said of the vote to end the four-month impasse.
Teachers approved the terms of the contract in voting Friday and Monday. The Eudora school board will vote Thursday to make the contract official.
"All of these items were agreed to by the negotiators who represent the board," Eudora USD 491 Superintendent Kobza said. "I would anticipate that this will be ratified Thursday night."
The terms of the contract, will raise the base salary $1,200 from $31,400 to $32,600. Benefits will go up $10 from $240 per month to $250 per month and reimbursement for college tuition went up from $300 per year to $600 per year.
The district will be able to go off of the salary schedule to attract new hires when there is critical demand.
A change also was made to the 36-hour clause, which stipulated that teacher were required to be available for up to 36 hours after classes. This time typically was spent at back-to-school nights, open house and individualized educational program planning periods.
Kobza said still wanted to make improvements to the agreement but was happy to have a contract for the teachers.
"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 of the areas in which the ENEA would like to see an improvement is how much teachers' wages increase in proportion to their experience and education, also known as steps.
Kobza said 70 percent of the teaching staff has less than 10 years of experience. So, adding to the base salary was a way to affect 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 thinks the school district would be able to retain and hire more veteran teachers once the steps were increased.
Both sides already are looking forward to beginning contract negotiations for the 2008-2009 school year. Proposed terms 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 the $45 million school bond passed Nov. 6 must be used for the project list of new facilities, it would have an indirect benefit to future general funds used to compensate teachers.
"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.
"This is a situation where we've done all that we possibly can, and now we'll have an opportunity to do more."
Though teachers weren't completely satisfied, Sailler said they were pleased to have negotiations finished.
"We're happy to have contracts and happy to be teachers," he said.