Teachers, board ratify contract
After just three rounds of negotiations, teachers in Eudora USD 491 have a contract for the 2008-09 school year. The USD 491 Board of Education ratified the new contract terms Thursday at its monthly meeting and the ENEA ratified the agreement earlier in the week.
The biggest change to the contract was the salary, which Superintendent Marty Kobza attributed to many financial pieces falling into place at exactly the right time.
"The Legislature passed the three-year finance plan, which gave us a little time to plan financially and get some ducks in a row to do something significant," he said. "The bond issue also had somewhat of an impact and we're continuing to grow with new students so it was kind of the perfect storm for the district to be able to make some significant impact to the salaries. This is the most substantial thing that we have done - I think that anyone can remember - in regards to teacher salaries"
The terms of the new contract increased the base pay by $1,800 from $32,600 to $34,400, with a $1,400 raise upon completing a master's degree. Pay will increase by $600 between each step, and then will increase by $750 after a master's degree is earned.
ENEA Co-President and Middle School English teacher Robert Sailler said both sides made a point of negotiating in good faith in that the ENEA did not make an extravagant proposal and the board didn't come back with a lowball effort.
Teachers initially proposed a raise of the base salary by $2,400 from $32,600 to $35,000.
They also proposed an increase to the steps, which are how much their wages increase in proportion to their experience and education.
Their last contract raised the base salary $1,200 from $31,400 to $32,600, but did not add to the steps.
Their proposal would increase the movement between step columns to $600 before the Master's degree column and $1,200 thereafter.
Teachers currently receive $300 before the Master's degree column with a raise of $1,400 after receiving the degree. However, they continue to receive $300 a column after receiving their Master's.
An increase in pay between the steps was one of a few main concerns for the ENEA.
"We identified that as a weakness in the salary schedule," Sailler said. "They were very receptive to what we had to say, and we worked together and changed it. It was a wonderful process."
Kobza said the new salary terms would be as much as a 12 percent increase in pay for veteran staff members, which is important because it could help the district maintain continuity within staff
"Our efforts previously have kind of been for recruitment to be able to be competitive with our base as we bring new people in," he said. "While this helps with recruitment, it also takes a big step toward retention in making sure that there's a financial incentive to stay on top of all the great things the district has to offer."
The new contract also increased the total allowance for college tuition reimbursement from $400 per year to $1,000 per year.
"We are in the education business and we want to help our staff to continue to pursue that," Kobza said. "We talk about lifelong learners in all of our mission statements, so we might as well be models of that and encourage that in our staff, too."
Other highlights of the new contract were:
¢ Health insurance defined benefit will increase by $10 a month to a $260 monthly benefit.
¢ Professional leave allowances were given to ENEA representatives.
"Ultimately, the district wants to be able to attract good teachers and keep good teachers and the settlement is good a reflection of the board's priorities," Sailler said.