Douglas County teachers accept tentative contract with school district |

Douglas County teachers accept tentative contract with school district

MINDEN – Douglas County teachers accepted a tentative contract agreement with the district Thursday at a ratification convention.

Out of 316 members who cast ballots, 243 voted in favor of the contract. The final tally was 154 teachers in support of the agreement and 89 against it.

The contract terms, which covers a two-year span, also must be ratified by the Board of Trustees in order for it to be officially finalized. The decision will be made at Wednesday’s board meeting. If the contract is ratified, negotiations will not take place until 2001.

Teachers spent two hours discussing the contract at the convention before the votes were cast.

Much of the debate centered around what teachers view to be the district’s persistent disregard for their concerns, according to a release by the Douglas County Professional Education Association.

“Morale among teachers is extremely low,” Association President Marty Cronin said. “Many (of the teachers) felt the community needed to be sent a strong message that the district is failing to address teacher concerns and that voting against the agreement would highlight these issues.

“We have contended for months that the difficulty in coming to a negotiated agreement is only a symptom of the way the district treats its teachers. A revised contract, on these terms, does not mean these issues have gone away.”

According to a district press release provided in August, the district agreed to a 1 percent salary increase on the 1998-99 salary schedule by October and a 1 percent bonus on the 2000-01 schedule for all contracted, certified teachers employed as of Sept. 1. A 1 percent increase will apply to all stipend salaries as well.

According to Cronin, the amount of the raise and bonus is a concern for some teachers.

“But more teachers are concerned that, in the coming elections, the public understand that the real issues are the direction the competencies are taking and the failure of the district to accept and address these professional concerns,” Cronin said. “The community should remember our promise of months ago that we never intended to secure more than the district could afford. That promise has been kept.”

The tentative agreement also gives teachers 15 days sick leave for child or family illness, and the district agreed to absorb the increase in employee and dependent group insurance rate increases for the 2000-2001 school year.

The association agreed to provide the district with a six-week window for teacher position transfers, as well as clarification and limitation of maternity leave to six weeks for normal delivery and eight weeks for Caesarean section delivery.

Cronin said now that the association has ratified the contract, it will concentrate on making the community aware of teacher concerns.

“… The community should understand that our focus, in the coming (school board) election will be to broaden the discussion of the direction of this school district,” Cronin said.

Five seats on the Douglas County School District Board of Trustees will be up for election Nov. 7.

Douglas County School District officials were unavailable for comment.

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