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Friday, April 29th, 2011

No pay increase for teachers

By Betty Lawrence
COLDWATER - School board members this morning unanimously approved a three-year contract with the Coldwater Teachers Organization that freezes salaries - including step pay increases - for two years. The contract will be reopened for new negotiations during the third year.
"The reopening is for salaries and insurance only," treasurer Sherry Shaffer said this morning. "That third year occurs at the beginning of the next state biennium budget, and at that time, there will be a better understanding of what the new biennium will be."
Teachers can receive both a base salary increase and step pay increase, which is based on education and experience. Under the new contract, which goes into effect July 1, teachers will not see either of these increases for two years.
Coldwater Teachers Organization President Dan Pohlman said the union was pleased with the smoothness of the negotiation process.
The union is "very happy to have a secure contract in these hard economic times," he said. "Just like the board, we too want to give our kids the best education possible and everyone is willing to do their part to make that happen. There was a lot of good communication between all parties, and we're very thankful for that."
The contract also reconfigures the salary schedule to reduce the first three years' salaries on the schedule and eliminate the mid-step between bachelor's degree and master's degree.
"This just better plans the first three years of salary for anyone new coming in," Shaffer said. "One column was not designated by a particular degree, so this was eliminated, meaning someone with a bachelor's degree has to get a master's degree to move up."
Other contract highlights include a switch from the comprehensive PPO health insurance plan to an alternative PPO plan that includes a deductible and higher employee shares on co-pays. The employee share of premiums would increase 10 percent in the first year and 12 1/2 percent the second year.
The contract calls for establishment of a labor relations committee to deal with employee concerns. The committee is an old idea that was reborn, Shaffer said.
"It was never implemented in our last contact and the intent at this time is to have the committee meet monthly, or as needed, to help keep the lines of communications open," she said.
Serving on the committee will be the superintendent, treasurer, a designee, the teachers union president and two other teachers.
The committee can expect to undergo formal labor-liaison training in August.
The past teachers' contract was for two years, July 1, 2009, to July 1, 2011. It included a zero percent raise the first year and 1.25 percent the second.
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