Teacher salary schedule finalized for 2017-18

With only three months of school remaining, teacher salary schedules are finalized for the 2017-18 school year after extensive negotiations between representatives of the district and Newton National Education Association (NEA).

On Jan. 17, 89 percent of teachers voted to pass the proposed salary schedule. After the same contract failed in a September vote and no resolutions were made between the two parties, discussion of a possible impasse circulated. However, teachers conceded before formal action was taken.

“It was not an official impasse. Someone has to file for that with the state. It was simply that the school board’s representatives refused to come out of the office to meet with us in public, and so there were some conversations that went on between some of our reps and some of their reps to see if we could find some common ground and go back to the table,” Newton NEA president Cathlina Bergman said.

USD 373 Superintendent Deborah Hamm said that while South Central Kansas NEA Director Dave Kirkbride worked with school board attorney John Robb to consider possible solutions, the original proposal remained.

“The original salary option was accepted by the teachers. We looked at other ways, if you will, to distribute or allocate the money, but eventually it just came back to what was originally offered and that was what was accepted,” Hamm said.

However, one adjustment was made concerning the number of personal and sick leave days teachers receive during the school year.

“There is only one difference between the one in September that failed and the one in November, and that is that the school agreed to give teachers one additional personal day. That is kind of tricky because we have a set of sick days and personal leave,” Bergman said. “They just took one and relabeled it. We have the same number of days total, but we used to have 11 and two, now we have ten and three.”

Although the contract is not what teachers were hoping for, Bergman said timing of the next contract cycle prompted the favorable vote.

“For the most part, they are still not happy with the overall contract but they feel like it is time to settle. There are some good things in this contract, and they wanted to get it settled so we could move on because it’s February,” Bergman said. “This paycheck is the first time they will see any improvement from last year. We are starting the next round of negotiations, they start in March for next year already, so they felt like ‘let’s get this one settled so we can move on.’”

Hamm agreed that the contract, while increasing the base salary approximately three percent from last year, is still not sufficient.

“When you ask, ‘does it meet the needs of the teachers?’ I would have to say no because it is not yet where we want it to be. We will continue to work towards increasing the base salary for teachers so that we get it to a competitive amount over the next several years,” Hamm said.

The Newton NEA is currently surveying district teachers in order to identify areas of focus for the 2018-19 contract negotiations, which begin in March.

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