After meeting for four days in contract discussions, the Blaine County School District and the Blaine County Education Association negotiated a 1.25 percent pay increase in the base teacher salary structure.
Negotiations were concluded on Friday, May 17. Late Monday afternoon, the Education Association, often referred to as the teachers union, overwhelming approved the new contract by a vote of 121-2.
Late in the day Friday, the district board of trustees scheduled a special meeting for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday—which was after the Idaho Mountain Express press deadline—to consider the new contract.
The negotiation sessions, conducted on May 9, 10, 16 and 17, were open to the public as required by Idaho law. On Monday, district Communications Director Heather Crocker provided a copy of the draft agreement to the Express. However, the draft agreement was missing accurate salary tables. The agreed-upon tables were then provided to the Express shortly before noon on Tuesday.
The Express had previously informed district officials that it would like the opportunity to inform the public of the agreement prior to school board ratification. However, with the quickly scheduled board meeting, the opportunity was not available except for a short “News Update” notice posted on the Express website Tuesday afternoon.
“There was no intent to rush it through,” Board Chair Steve Guthrie said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “We had the opportunity to get together, as far as the board goes. In the event it isn’t approved tonight, it would give us time to go back to the drawing board.”
Guthrie further noted that the “negotiations were open to the public and we had some public there.”
Crocker also addressed the scheduling of the meeting in an email to the Express.
“Regarding the board of trustees special meeting, there are many factors that contribute to the meeting: board work schedules and personal schedules, teacher contracts, the end of the school year, having a quorum, etc.,” Crocker wrote. “The negotiations were stretched out over two weeks this year. Schools are hiring for new positions and contracts need to be distributed, signed and returned. Most of that happens before school ends in two weeks.”
Guthrie represented the district in negotiations, along with Superintendent Lonnie Barber, Assistant Superintendent John Blackman, Business Manager Mike Chatterton and Wood River Middle School Principal Fritz Peters.
The teachers union was represented by Education Association President Tryntje Van Slyke and association board members Maritt Wolfrom, Kari Haugen, Jamie Harding, Erika Greenberg and Michael Walsh.
In addition to the 1.25 percent pay increase, the new agreement also leaves in place the “steps and lanes” program, wherein teachers can move to a higher salary grade with varying years of experience and by furthering their education.
It was not clear Tuesday whether the pay increase would be extended to all district employees, as has been the case for the past few years.
The increase follows two years when 2 percent increases in the base salary for teachers have been negotiated and approved. In 2012, 1 percent of the pay increase was permanent while the other 1 percent was payable as a one-time bonus in December of that year.
Also in 2012, the approved agreement provided that teachers hired after Oct. 15, 2012, would be paid 12.3 percent less than those hired before that date. The contract now provides an “A” schedule for teachers hired before Oct. 15, 2012, and a “B” schedule for teachers hired after that date.
If approved by the school board, the contract will go into effect on July 1 at the start of fiscal year 2014.
Under the new contract, the annual salaries for teachers on the A schedule, depending on years of experience and level of education, will range from $40,412 to $85,172.
On the B schedule, salaries will range from $35,438 to $74,688.
Terry Smith: email@example.com