The South-Western Board of Education on May 21 approved a new three-year contract with the South-Western Education Association, the union representing the district's certificated staff.

The agreement gives union members a 2.5% increase in their base salary for each year of the contract. The current contract, which expires June 30 of this year, provided a 2.25% pay increase for each year.

Under the salary schedule for the first year of the contract, effective July 1, 2019, a new teacher with a bachelor's degree would make $42,488 in annual salary. The salary level would increase with every year of experience to a total of $79,197.63 for a teacher with 24 years experience and a bachelor's degree.

In the second year of the contract, the base salary for teachers with bachelor's degrees would range from $43,550 for a beginning teacher to $81,177.20 for a teacher with 24 years experience.

In the third and final year of the agreement, the base salary would range from $44,639 to $83,207.

The agreement also increases the board's contribution toward premiums for family health-care insurance coverage from 68% to 69%. The board's contribution will increase to 70% beginning Oct. 1, 2020.

The new agreement will expire June 30, 2022.

"We're very pleased with the fact that the process was very collaborative and allows us to focus on (exploring our staff's) work conditions as they relate to serving the needs of our students," Superintendent Bill Wise said. "There was a great deal of dialogue and discussion that helped us reach an agreement in the interest of all parties."

Negotiations began April 8, and six sessions were held before the contract agreement was finalized, Wise said.

The SWEA voted earlier this month to approve the contract.

"We are pleased with the positive and collaborative manner in which we were able to work with the board to settle this contract," SWEA president Carol Cross said in a statement.

"Whenever we work together in this way, the students of our district are the true beneficiaries."

Other major provisions in the new contract include:

* Adjustments to usage of leave, internal coverage and assignments

* Items that address upcoming state-required changes to the evaluation system

* More flexibility in scheduling certificated staff work time outside of the regular school day

* Creation of a joint committee that would review and make recommendations regarding the implementation of the state's new Social and Emotional Learning Standards

The SWEA represents about 1,600 South-Western certificated staff, including teachers, guidance counselors, nurses, psychologists and tutors.