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Washington County teachers, support personnel sign contracts

June 18, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Employee contracts with Washington County's public school teachers and support personnel were signed Tuesday.

The multiyear contracts give teachers a 2 percent raise for each of the next two school years. For the 2010-11 school year, teachers could receive a 3 percent pay increase; however, that could change during limited contract negotiations that will take place first.

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

Support personnel -- including paraprofessionals, bus drivers, secretaries, custodians, food service workers and others -- will receive a 2 percent raise plus a step increase beginning in the 2009-10 school year and a 3 percent raise the next year.

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In the 2008-09 school year pay increases vary by individual, according to documents.

The contracts were approved by the Washington County Board of Education during a public business meeting Tuesday. Each vote was 5-0, with members William H. Staley and Paul W. Bailey absent.

The contracts go into effect July 1.

A tentative agreement between the Washington County Board of Education and the county's teachers' union was announced in May. However, the contract had to be ratified by union members before it became official, said Denise D. Fry, president of the Washington County Teachers Association.

Teachers approved the document in June, she said.

The three-year contract includes items on salary, health insurance, extracurricular duties, planning time, vacated positions, religious observance and other items.

Representatives from the association and the school board had been meeting since November, and have previously described the negotiation process as "amicable" and "productive." That is in contrast to 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.

Only one public bargaining session was held this year.

"This process worked extremely well this year," Tim Thornburg said Tuesday. "It was extremely collaborative. Both sides came together."

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

Fry told school board members that she hopes that trend continues in future contract negotiations between the two sides. She said the style was "collaborative," not combative.

"We attempted to say, ... 'Let's make sure we are respectful of each other, so we can disagree politely,'" she said. "I'm glad (officials) were agreeable to doing something different."

The four-year contract for Washington County Public Schools' support personnel salary increases, changes in personal leave and other items. There will be limited negotiations during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years. Officials also described that process as "collaborative."

Board Vice President Donna Brightman said she hopes that type of relationship continues with unions representing teachers and support personnel.

"I'm looking forward to a year-round relationship with both of your organizations," she said. "We all need to stay close together and talk and communicate."

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