Archive for Thursday, April 10, 2008

Teachers, USD 491 begin contract talks

April 10, 2008

Negotiators with the Eudora National Education Association and Eudora USD 491 said Friday's initial talks were positive and a good way to begin work toward new teaching contracts.

"It was a good exchange of ideas," ENEA Co-President and Middles School English teacher Robert Sailler said.

Eudora Superintendent Marty Kobza was pleased with the clarity the meeting could bring to future discussions.

"The meeting we had on Friday was very positive and I think that the issues are on the table," Kobza said. "Sometime with these negotiation processes, the issues don't always appear quickly. But I think that it's very clear and both parties are interested in accelerating the process."

Teachers did not receive a contract for the 2007-08 school year until mid-December. While both sides would like to see an agreement sooner than later, Sailler said he is more concerned with the quality of the contracts as opposed to the timing of it.

Because the meeting was the first of many, all issues have not been fleshed out and not all issues have specific numbers and language attached to them.

However, there are four issues to which the ENEA would like to make changes.

The first item on the list is how much teachers' wages should increase in proportion to their experience and education, also known as steps.

Their last contract raised the base salary $1,200 from $31,400 to $32,600, but did not add to the steps.

The union also would like to see an increase in summer school pay.

There will be about $340,000 made available to the district because of an increase in funding.

While Kobza said that money would go toward adding to salaries and new hires, it would be spread out across the salaries of all district employees, not just teachers.

"We've got 110 teacher, but there are 250 total employees in the district," Kobza said. "So, what you try to do is treat everybody fairly, but it will primarily go to existing employees."

Sailler said the union was told more money would become available if the bond passed. While that is true, it does not appear to be an immediate surplus.

Kobza said money would be made available via savings that come from constructing certain elements. For instance, the district will save money on maintenance as a result of the field turf that will be used at the new stadium because of not having to care for grass.

However, the stadium is not set to be finished until 2010.

"The key is sustainability," Kobza said. "Any money that is reallocated to pay salaries, we have to pay that salary every year, so it's not a one-time thing. We need to identify those things.

"There are some opportunities to do some things - not terribly significant - but there are some opportunities. I think that we can find middle ground and do something that's fair."

Other issues were:

¢ The liquidation process. When a teacher quits late in the year, which is to say after the hiring process for the next school year is already complete, it costs the district extra money to begin the hiring process again.

Currently, teachers are assessed a one-time fine of $100 multiplied by the number of months past the deadline of May 20 in which teachers decide to notify the district that they will not return for the next school year. The district would like to raise that fine to be $1,000 multiplied by the number of months past the deadline.

Kobza said it actually costs the district at least $1,000 to start the hiring process again.

The union, of course, is against what would amount to a 900 percent increase.

¢ Hours and amounts of work. When a teacher runs out of sick days but is still are unable to come to work, the person's pay is docked at per diem wage for each day past the 12 they are allowed. The union would like to see teachers docked the same amount as substitute teachers.

The figures for this issue are situational, in that the per diem for each teacher is his or her annual salary divided by the number of contracted workdays.

The district pays Morgan Hunter, which supplies schools with substitute teachers, $130.50 per day for a substitute. However, long-term subs are paid a different amount that is negotiated between the district and the sub.

¢ Association rights. The union wants five days available for teachers to attend KNEA functions. They currently do not have any days that allow them any such leave.

In both the case of sick pay and association rights, Kobza said he is unsure of what the school board will do, but that they are looking into each issue.

The ENEA will present a salary proposal at next meeting, which will be at 4:30 p.m. April 18 in the EMS library. The meetings are open to the public.

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