The Washington County Board of Education approved contract issues Tuesday that include pay raises for employees in all three bargaining units.
A new three-year teachers' contract passed by a 4-2 vote. Two board members had concerns about a change that would allow teachers to take off five consecutive days during the school year.
The resolution of the contract issues puts an end to a long year that started with the school system reaching an impasse in negotiations with its two employee unions, settling those disagreements with one-time bonuses and resulting in Tuesday's votes involving all three employee groups.
Negotiations will begin this fall on a new contract with support personnel, as the current one expires June 30, 2012. The teachers union and school system also will discuss salary issues for the second year of the new teachers' contract, as salaries are to be renegotiated for the second and third years.
Officials with the bargaining units and school system praised the collaborative efforts in recent months to reach the agreements.
While employees received one-time payments this fiscal year, the last step increases and raises they received were during fiscal 2009-10, Chief Financial Officer Chris South said.
That year, Washington County Teachers Association and Washington County Educational Support Personnel members received step increases and a 2 percent pay increase, South said. Members of the nonunion Washington County Association of Supervisors and Administrators received a step increase midway through the year.
The school board unanimously approved renegotiated aspects of the final year of the contract with Washington County Educational Support Personnel.
The board voted 6-0 to approve an agreement with the nonunion supervisors and administrators group. Board Vice President W. Edward Forrest, whose wife is a principal in the school system, recused himself from that vote.
All three new agreements start with the new fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Employees in all three bargaining groups will get raises because those at the top step of their pay scale, who are therefore not eligible for a step increase, will get a permanent increase to the top step, said South and T. Scott Miller, chief negotiator for the teachers' and support personnel unions.
For members of the teachers union and administrators and supervisors group who are at the top step in their pay scale, the permanent increase will be a flat $500, South said.
For full-time support personnel, who work on an hourly basis, the pay increase for employees at the top step works out to be approximately $500, Miller said.
The negotiated salary increases account for a $3.15 million increase in expenditures for the coming fiscal year, according to budget documents.
Board President Wayne Ridenour, whose wife is a teacher in the school system, recused himself from the discussion and vote on the teachers contract.
Forrest and board member Justin Hartings voted against the teachers contract because of a change that would allow teachers to take five consecutive days off during the school year.
Currently, teachers cannot hold any unused personal days over into the new year, but those unused personal days can be added to sick leave days, Miller said.
With the new contract, an employee could roll over two unused personal days into the new year and, with permission, take up to five consecutive days off during the school year, Miller said.
Hartings and Forrest said they support the pay increases, but expressed concern about the effects a one-week absence would have on instruction for students.
Substitute teachers don't know the students as well as full-time teachers, who can target instruction better to students' different needs, Hartings said.
"I'm not going to be able to support the contract because of that provision. It's that important to me," said Hartings, who has children in the school system.
For a high school teacher instructing a 90-minute class in a semester block, such an absence would equate to 10 instructional days, Forrest said.
"I find that troubling," said Forrest, who also has children in the school system.
Board member Paul Bailey said if the time-off provision is abused, the issue will be revisited and fixed.
Board members Jacqueline Fischer and Karen Harshman said they trusted teachers would not abuse the time-off provision.
Harshman said she hopes teachers will use it sparingly for once-in-a-lifetime events.