Teachers in Whitehall will receive a pay increase for the first time in three years following approval of a new pay agreement by school board members last week.
The contract was approved April 9 by the Whitehall Education Association and by the school board April 10 after a short closed-door session.
Under the new three-year agreement, teachers will receive a 3 percent increase in pay during the first year of the deal, 2 percent during the second year and a 1.5 percent increase in the final year of the contract.
The new contract begins July 1.
"The association has a history of collaborating with the board to address needs," said district Superintendent Brian Hamler, who added he was pleased with the negotiation process.
WEA President Alisha Wilson agreed.
"With all the changes that we've faced in education, the one thing that has remained constant is a willingness for our association and administration to work cooperatively in the best interest of our students and community," she said.
Other changes in the contract include larger health-care contributions from teachers; the alignment of teacher evaluations with new state law, which bases evaluations equally on teacher performance and student growth; and new language that will make performance the first determining factor in the reduction of staff.
"As education is evolving, so is our contract," said Wilson. "We are constantly trying to accommodate the needs of our students while developing this system. Change is never easy, but our negotiations team truly believes that we were able to find solutions that will benefit our community, district and students as a whole. As always, we will be monitoring and evaluating our changes to ensure success."
Both Hamler and Wilson pointed to the negotiation process as a contributing factor to a quick, favorable agreement.
"The interest-based bargaining process provides the framework for solution-oriented goals," said Wilson. "It's not the adversarial trade-off system of traditional negotiations. We have been able to maintain a good working relationship with our administrators, which makes using the IBB process possible."
Hamler said he deeply appreciated the education association's willingness to make sacrifices three years ago.
"In 2011, our bargaining-unit members agreed to a wage freeze in order to help the board through a difficult financial period," he said.
In September 2011, the Whitehall City School District and its teachers came to a landmark agreement, rescinding the final year of their existing contract in order to renegotiate a pay freeze in an effort to save programming for students.
The association's membership voted to approve the agreement, saying at the time it was best for students.
The three-year deal with teachers rescinded their current contract at the time, which was to expire June 30, 2012. In its place, Whitehall teachers maintained the terms of the former contract for the first year of the three-year deal, along with a 2 percent pay increase, but then agreed to a pay freeze for the next two years of the agreement. The deal also halted any step increases for teachers for that same two-year period.