Licking County News

Southwest Licking

New teachers contract deemed 'fair' by district officials

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Earlier this month, the Southwest Licking school board voted 4-0, with Roger Zeune absent, to approve a three-year contract with district teachers.

The contract had been at issue for much of the summer until a resolution was reached Aug. 11.

"I think it's a very fair contract to teachers and the district," board President Don Huber said. "It's affordable."

Treasurer Richard Jones agreed.

"The board and teachers union worked hard and in the end, we feel we have a very fair agreement," he said in an email.

"I believe the contract to be fair," Superintendent Robert Jennell also said.

Teachers union co-presidents Paula Ball and Shelly Gardner-Ballinger were not available for comment.

Jones said the new agreement includes:

* Salary increases of 2 percent, effective Aug. 1; 2.25 percent, effective Aug. 1, 2015; and 2.25 percent, effective Aug. 1, 2016. The increases would cost the district $300,000 to $340,000 per year.

* The highest-end insurance option was eliminated, effective Oct. 1, 2015. This will save the district about $145,000 annually and counter some of the costs associated with the raises.

* New teacher-evaluation system language.

* Reduction of teachers' flex time from 30 minutes to 15 minutes per day.

"The teacher workday is not reduced by the 15 minutes but instead, the 15 minutes can be used for bus duties and other responsibilities as identified by the building principal," Jones said.

* An increase of teachers' reimbursement for college work per semester hour, per unit member cap and maximum allocation, in exchange for eliminating language requiring the unused portion of the maximum allocation from rolling over from one year to the next.

* Elimination of an additional planning period for Advanced Placement teachers.

In addition, Jones said, class sizes were an important point in negotiations, and the new contract included several accommodations.

First, Jones said, the contract eliminates special-education students counting as 1.5 towards the class size limit.

"If the class size was 22 students, if you have four special-education students in your class, they actually counted as six students toward your class size limit of 22," he said.

The new contract calls for a 35-percent cap on the number of special-education students in each general and co-taught class.

"This allows us to put 22 students in a class instead of having to count some students as 1.5," Jones said.

Also, the contract places a class-size limit of 40 students in art, physical education and music. (Music is taught only in kindergarten through fifth grade.)

Jones said according to the new contract, if a teacher accepts one K-5 student or one to five grade 6-12 students over the teacher's class-size limit, the teacher would be paid up to $45 per day.

"This saves the school district from having to hire a new teacher," he said. "This would only occur if all teachers in a particular grade level or subject have reached their maximum class size and the only other option would be to hire a new teacher."

 

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