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School Board approves new contracts with teachers

Teachers to share portion of health insurance increases, will get “modest” increases in salary

August 24, 2012
By Kremena Spengler - Staff writer ( , The Journal

NEW ULM - The District 88 School Board Thursday approved settlements with the teachers' union for 2011-13 and 2013-15.

The action caps the longest negotiation season in at least a dozen years, which included two mediation sessions, district negotiator Susan Nierengarten said.

Because the last contract had expired in 2011, and negotiations would have been set to resume in just a few months, the union suggested, and the district agreed to, negotiating two successive two-year contracts at once, explained Nierengarten.

State law says contracts have to be approved for two years; nothing prevents the approval of two contracts at once, she added.

The fact negotiation is complete through 2015 would allow everyone to focus on other important issues, she added.

The changes include some contractual language, Nierengarten went on to say. Provisions were amended to reflect the switch to a six-period day in the high school and the switch to a single student council and yearbook for grades 7-12, for example. (In conjunction with the 6-period day, teachers who teach a resource period, rather than doing supervisory duty, will receive a stipend of $500 per semester.)

The language was also changed to specify that teachers are required to work three events per year in exchange for a free activity pass, and that teachers who work five events or more would receive a free family pass.

In terms of benefits, health insurance contributions will not change for the contract year that ended (2011-12).

In the upcoming year, the district contribution to health insurance will increase 2.5 percent, which is half of the actual increase, said Nierengarten.

In each of the following two years, 2013-14 and 2014-15, the district contribution will increase up to 2.5 percent, with employees shouldering any additional increases, said Nierengarten.

In effect, for the first time in at least a dozen years, there will be no automatic full payment of single coverage premiums by the district, Nierengarten pointed out. Employees are shouldering a larger share of these costs, she said. Hopefully, this would encourage a serious conversation about health insurance options that would reduce premiums, she said.

In terms of salary, there will be no step advances (increases based on years of service) and no increases in the salary schedule (increases similar to cost-of-living adjustments) for 2011-12.

In each of the following years, there will be step increases and also a 1 percent increase in the salary scale.

In addition, just in 2012-13, teachers at the top of the salary scale (who receive no step increases) will receive a $500 one-time stipend.

Nierengarten described the changes in financial provisions as "modest."

She said the cost impact of the changes to the district will be 1.982 percent for the first two-year contract, and 2.326 percent for the second biennium.

(She added that cost includes a mandated 0.5 percent increase in the district contribution to teachers' retirement accounts, on which the local board has no say.)

In another matter, the board announced the appointment of Les Koppendrayer, who is in the process of retiring as principal of Franklin Elementary School in Mankato, as interim principal of Washington Elementary School.

He is officially retiring Sept. 7 and his contract here would be effective Sept. 11.

The action follows the late resignation of Bill Sprung.

The interim principal will be hired for a year, to allow for a search for a permanent replacement to begin in early 2013.



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