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Washington County teachers, school board reach tentative contract deal

May 16, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A tentative three-year contract for teachers in Washington County Public Schools includes 2 percent pay raises for each of the next two years.

The raises are part of a tentative agreement announced Thursday between the Washington County Board of Education and the county's teachers' union. The three-year contract must be approved by teachers and the school board before it goes into effect July 1. The current contract expires June 30.

For the 2010-11 school year, teachers could receive a 3 percent pay increase, according to the tentative contract agreement. However, that could change during limited contract negotiations that will take place first.

Teachers also will receive a step increase for each of the next three school years. For most teachers, that will mean at least a 3.5 percent pay increase.

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Last year's negotiated agreement included a 7 percent raise for teachers, among other items. Tim Thornburg previously said that this would be a "lean" budget year, and said next year is likely to be the same.

Thornburg is supervisor of human resources and employee/labor relations for Washington County Public Schools and is the board's chief negotiator.

Representatives for the Washington County Teachers Association and the school board had been meeting since November, and said this year's negotiations were much more amicable and productive. Last year's contract talks, which were open to the public, lasted six months and ended in June 2007 after state officials declared talks at an impasse.

This year, only one public bargaining session was held.

Jeff Farr, chief negotiator for the teachers' union and a teacher at Antietam Academy, said both sides were able to "more freely talk to each other" by having private talks. He said negotiators were able to trust each other, and were not so "paranoid" during the most recent contract negotiations.

"I want to personally give credit to the Board of Education for their willingness to try something new this year for negotiations, and by taking that leap of faith and stepping out onto that limb of the unknown and trusting the process, we were able to reach a great agreement through the collaborative process," Thornburg said.

Farr described negotiations as a good experience.

"We're grateful," he said.

Thornburg said the tentative contract will help the school system attract and retain quality teachers, and also keep the county competitive with neighboring jurisdictions.

A starting salary for a teacher with a bachelor's degree will increase to $42,807 in the 2008-09 school year and to $43,662 in the 2009-10 school year.

"The contract is good for teachers, students, the community and Washington County Public Schools as a whole," Thornburg said.

Contract items



The following are some tentatively agreed upon items in the new three-year contract for teachers in Washington County Public Schools.

· Salary - 2 percent salary increase for each of the next two school years; 3 percent raise in the third year, which could be renegotiated.

· Health insurance - Increase in maximum yearly allowance for dental from $1,000 to $1,200. There will be a discussion about health care at least annually.

· Critical-needs areas (tuition reimbursement) - The Board of Education will pay all fees for a teacher who applies for and is approved to become highly qualified in a critical-need area. The teacher must commit to three years of employment with the school system.

· Extracurricular - Enhancements to compensation for extracurricular activities for the next two years.

· Union dues - Deductions will be made in 16 equal installments instead of 10.

· New hire access - At least a packet of Washington County Teachers Association material distributed to all new hires.

· Monitoring duties - Not to take place during self-directed planning time.

· Planning time - All members to have 250 minutes weekly. Elementary teachers receive an additional two hours and 30 minutes each semester.

· New buildings - Administrators can allocate up to five days for setup, team assignments, etc., in a new building; up to two days for a renovated building.

· Vacated positions - If a member is absent from a position and using approved leave for more than 30 consecutive workdays or 45 intermittent absences within a 60-workday period, the position may be declared vacant.

· Religious observance - Up to three days of previously scheduled release time to be made up with mutually chosen instructional time.

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