The New Albany-Plain Local school board Monday night voted to approve 3-percent average raises annually for the next three years.

The New Albany-Plain Local school board Monday night voted to approve 3-percent average raises annually for the next three years.

The raises are in addition to an average step increase of 2.89 percent.

The salary increase -- 2.9 percent for 2009-10, 3.1 percent for 2010-11 and 3.0 percent for 2011-12 -- was approved for both the Plain Local Education Association and the Ohio Association of Public School Employees union members.

PLEA members were scheduled to vote on the measure Tuesday evening (Visit for an update). OAPSE members unanimously voted for the increase Feb. 18, according to Superintendent Steve Castle.

Board members voted to amend the current agreements with PLEA and OAPSE, which expire June 30, 2010, and voted to approve the negotiated agreements between PLEA and OAPSE for the period between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2012.

The board in June 2008 approved a two-year agreement that gave PLEA and OAPSE teachers a 2.75-percent raise during the 2008-09 school year but left raises in the 2009-10 school year undetermined.

Teachers also will receive an average of a 2.89-percent step increase based on their years of experience and their education levels. This step increase is factored in after the 2.9-percent increase that all district teachers will receive next school year.

For example, consider a teacher with a master's degree and 15 years of experience making $73,838 for the 2008-09 school year. Assuming eligibility for a step increase, the teacher would get a 2.9-percent raise, in addition to a 3.25-percent step increase, and would make $78,449 for 2009-10 -- a total increase of about 6.24 percent.

Castle said the new agreement would allow district administrators to focus on education, rather than contract negotiations.

"A real benefit is, all of the contractual language is locked in," he said. "The current level of health insurance is locked down until that time, too."

He also said district officials looked at the local increases, such as the raises given to New Albany and Plain Township employees.

Board member Mark Ryan was the lone dissenter, citing further questions and the current economy.

"With four children in the district, I have seen up close the care, professionalism and enthusiasm our staff brings to their work each day," Ryan said. "However, in the role as a board member, my personal experience is superseded by my duty to the organization and all of its stakeholders. Our role is to process and make deliberate decisions on policy and strategy for the entire organization."

Board member Peter Horvath echoed some of Ryan's comments but ultimately voted for the pay increase.

"From pure principle of the current economic situation, I started my thoughts where Mark is, and I ended them feeling the practicality," he said. "As we wrestle with these things, we had to make a decision, and we did."

PLEA president Phoebe Glenn said she thinks the contract is fair.

"We really had no idea until the levy passed," she said. "I appreciate the collaboration."

Ross La Perna, a resident who was at Monday's meeting, said the process was not transparent.

"What was the rush?" he said. "They voted last night on the single biggest expense they have without the disclosure of how the money is being spent. The school board members are spending like they are drunk."

Doug Crawford, a labor-relations consultant with the Ohio Education Association, said administrators and the teachers diligently worked on the agreement for weeks.

"This is a unique contract," he said. "It will save a lot of time and expense."

School board president Diane Goedeking was absent.

The Plain Township Fire Department responded to a fire at 7655 Wilbur Road -- the home of the New Albany-Plain Local school board president Diane Goedeking -- early Monday morning.

Plain Township fire Chief John Hoovler said firefighters reached the scene at about 12:45 a.m. to find a "severe" fire.

Neither Goedeking nor her husband, John, was injured in the fire, according to Hoovler, who said the two are staying with relatives.

Hoovler said it would take awhile to evaluate, but it appears as though the cause was a wood-burning stove.

"The damage was quite extensive," he said. "It was very significant. They are pretty devastated."

-- Gail Martineau