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Teachers, board agree on new contract

July 22, 1998|By DAVE McMILLION

A two-year contract that gives teachers a 3 percent across-the-board pay increase in the 1998-99 school year was approved by The Washington County Board of Education and the Washington County Teachers Association Tuesday night.

The contract also calls for spending about $250,000 to boost salaries at the lower end of the pay scale to attract new teachers to the county.

The agreement ends six months of negotiations, officials said.

The contract calls for a 4 percent pay raise in the 1999-2000 school year, although that depends on funding from the Washington County Commissioners.

Washington County's starting teacher salary of $25,075 is the third lowest in the state, but with the 3 percent increase and the boost at the low end of the scale, starting pay will climb to $27,000.

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The increase will amout to about a 7.9 percent pay hike for beginning teachers, said John Hull, acting supervisor of human resources.

Washington County trails many others - and ranks last in some instances - in teacher salaries, a fact that has caused concern among some state and local officials.

Hull said it will probably take a couple of months to determine how the pay raise will affect the county's ranking among school districts in the state.

"There's no question we're moving ahead," said Board of Education member Andrew R. Humphreys.

"We have made some progress, but we need to keep our eye on the ball," said Superintendent of Schools Herman G. Bartlett Jr.

Although there had been criticism from teachers about the negotiation process, teachers association president Sharon Chirgott called the contract a "very sound agreement."

The contract gives teachers three personal days, but eliminates the ability for them to accumulate up to five days, which some teachers considered a "slap in the face," said Dave Williams, who was on the negotiating team for the teachers.

B. Marie Byers, vice president of the Board of Education, said the criticism was nothing out of the ordinary for contract negotiations.

"That's part of the negotiating process. You have to talk through it," Byers said.

The contract also increases pay for coaching and other extracurricular activities by 3 percent, and the number of college credit hours for which teachers will be reimbursed will increase from six to 12 for every year of the contract.

The two sides also agreed to form two committees to study the teacher pay scale and attendance patterns. One idea is to reduce the time it takes to reach the top of the pay scale, Hull said.

In the last school year, school officials said more than 100 teachers were absent on some days, causing problems in finding enough substitutes to cover the classes. One way to reduce the problem is having professional development programs for teachers during the summer, Hull said.

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