By LAUREN VINCENT
• Daily Leader
The verdict following a two-hour negotiation meeting Monday evening between USD No. 480 board representatives and Liberal National Education Association representatives was both sides are nearing an impasse.
Insurance rates have gone up this year due to a substantial increase in accidents reported, prescription drug usage and other health care coverage. Premiums have increased 37 percent adding $2,079 to a single plan’s yearly cost and $4,520 to the yearly plan of a family.
As such, the LNEA has been looking for ways to compensate the hefty premiums.
The last negotiations meeting ended with the board offering a proposal of funding steps to movement on the salary schedule and adding five days to the contract year. Premiums being unknown at that time, LNEA decided it would be unable to accept that offer until numbers were clarified.
The Monday meeting was to begin with an LNEA counter proposal but first, LNEA lead negotiator Brent Goodwin wished to address a matter of excess funding. His calculations suggested the school should be saving a great deal of money on changes in the makeup of the staff this coming year and thus would be free to offer more to current teachers.
“As of the June 7 meeting, 41 resignations and six retirements were given creating 47 total vacancies to be filled from last year,” Goodwin said. “For the ’09-’10 school year the 47 who have left cost the district $2,074,211.”
He continued by suggesting the 28 replacements, calculated according to last year’s expenses, would cost the school $1,805,571. Including the additional 19 teachers to fill the full 47 openings, projected costs will be $268,640 less than with the 47 from last year.
Goodwin also found it pertinent to include years of experience with the saving figures. Of the 47 teachers who left last year there was an average of approximately 9.54 teaching years experience with 13 masters degrees. Of the 28 replacements found so far, the average is 1.28 teaching experience with one master’s degree.
“We have a trend of replacing highly educated, experienced teachers, with teachers with less education and much less experience,” he said.
The reply from the board was short.
“Brent, that approach is not persuasive, you are just wasting your time,” said board persident Dan Diepenbrock. “Tell us what your offer is.”
“OK, $750 added to base salary on the existing index scale,” Goodwin said. “We are not going to accept any days added to our contract. That’s ridiculous. And we are asking for a fully funded single health policy for each certified employee within the bargaining unit.
“That’s our counter proposal,” he concluded.
The board went into a caucus and returned with a slightly varied approach.
“After giving the offer due consideration,” said board lead negotiator Wayne Tate, “The board’s counter proposal is funding the steps, which is roughly $176,262; plus agree to add $229,800 to the insurance pool, which according to our calculation is approximately 11 percent of the 37 percent increase on a single policy; and six days extra for the additional $229,800.”
LNEA members questioned what the purpose of the extra days was and if there was any data to back up the idea of six additional days making a positive difference to the learning results.
“The extra days will be used for in service outside the school year, maybe early June or late July, and that is so we won’t have those days in the middle of the school year.” Diepenbrock answered. “There will be more contact days and fewer partial weeks. That’s the general approach to five or six days.”
The LNEA remained unpersuaded and adamant that six extra teaching days would not necessarily improve the end results of the school year.
Nancy Miller, LNEA member, gave a short speech detailing the unawarded efforts she, and most other teachers, put in every contract day of the school year. She said that with No Child Left Behind in play she is now preparing 12 lesson plans a day instead of the previous three. In addition to that, her preparation time of one hour a day is being whittled away by various required meetings. Not only will class preparations need to be made in the mere three hours a week remaining, but now there will also be tests every four and a half weeks that need to be graded.
“I do not object, it is a good thing, but when I’m using my planning time to do that I have to work an extra two hours a day,” Miller explained. “That’s an extra 10 hours a week. I am already gifting you an extra day each week. That is why I think I deserve a raise.”
She reports the board has previously denied a raise on the grounds that it would go to the good and bad teachers alike. She went on to suggest the board use their principals to weed out the bad teachers and then their reasoning for no raise would be void.
“I think you owe me more money right now because I am doing 12 preparations a day,” Miller said. “I like it, it’s good. The kids are interested, and I can see the results. But you just hurt my feelings terribly when you tell me not only do you not want to pay me more, you also want me to work more.”
The board was sympathetic but not swayed.
“Those are administrative issues, not negotiating issues,” Tate said. “Those need to be addressed by the board with their administrators. Mr. Diepenbrock is here as the board representative as well as Cheryl. They’ve heard what you’ve said. They can address it at the board level.”
Goodwin offered LNEA’s second counter proposal of the evening after a short caucus.
“Seven hundred and fifty dollars added to the base, three additional days at each teacher’s per diem rate, fully funded healthy plan at upper tier Blue Cross Blue Shield for each full time single employee and half time employees would get half the benefits,” he said. “Also, on the per diem days, we want to negotiate where they go on the calendar.”
An immediate caucus was called by the board. Returning the board gave its second proposal of the night.
“The board is proposing movement on the salary schedule, or steps, both vertical and horizontal,” Tate said. “The board is proposing to increase the insurance pool by $344,700, which is approximately a 1.9 percent increase. The steps are approximately a 1 percent increase. That would be approximately a 2.9 percent increase. And the board is still maintaining their position on six additional days to the contract.”
Goodwin brought the third and final LNEA counter proposal of the meeting.
“We remain where we were on the salary schedule, $750 added to the base with a vertical and horizontal movement,” Goodwin said. “As far as the health insurance pool we would ask that $517,050 be added to the insurance pool. Drop participation of all administration out of the health insurance pool. It would be okay for them to have their own pool, we just wouldn’t negotiate for administration. And we would be willing to add four days to the calendar as long as LNEA has the ability to negotiate where those days are. In exchange for that we would ask that 30 minutes be dropped from each teacher’s contract day.
“That concludes our proposal,” Goodwin said.
One last caucus by the board brought them to the conclusion that no progress was being made and more information would need to be gathered.
“Unless we receive some type of additional authority or position movement from the board, it appears that we are at an impasse,” Tate said.
LNEA negotiations will resume Thursday, July 1, after board representatives have met with the board.