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Teachers, District Reach Agreement

INDEPENDENCE -- A slight pay raise, extra time for classroom planning and a grace period for state-required teacher evaluation standards are key features of a new contract between Central School Distr

INDEPENDENCE -- A slight pay raise, extra time for classroom planning and a grace period for state-required teacher evaluation standards are key features of a new contract between Central School District and its teachers union.

The two sides wrapped up negotiations in late August. Central Education Association, which represents about 150 K-12 teachers, approved the one-year contract on Aug. 28.

Teachers will receive a 1 percent cost-of-living adjustment that will take effect halfway through the 190-day calendar. Language was removed that would have caused some members with longevity to suffer a 1 percent pay cut.

The last COLA increase was three years ago, district officials said.

"Overall, the negotiations were collaborative and constructive," said Ben Gorman, a member of CEA's bargaining team. The half-year split, "wasn't the ideal situation for either side, but their willingness to be creative made it work."

"I came away feeling confident that both sides were working toward the best possible outcome for our teachers and, through them, for our students."

Extra time for "professional learning communities" -- educational planning periods for teachers -- was reinstated for 2012-13. This involves a 60-minute early release for students on Mondays, with 15 minutes added to each day for the rest of the week to compensate.

Gorman said rules required by Senate Bill 290 were a struggle during negotiations.

The law mandates adoption of statewide performance standards to assist districts in determining the effectiveness of teachers and administrators. The measure must be in place by July 2013.

As part of the district contract, there will be training for employees on the standards prior to implementation and a "pilot year" when the system goes into effect in 2013-14 where teachers won't be subject to adverse employment decisions because of the new system.

"We will be working with our teachers to develop a new evaluation system," said Rich McFarland, Central's human resources director. "Our administrators have already started the process and have a system that we will be working the `kinks' out of this year."

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