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District, teachers strike deal

Central agreement brings end to lengthy negotiations, mediation

January 28, 2014

INDEPENDENCE — A quorum of the Central School Board unanimously approved a contract with the Central Education Association at a special meeting on Monday.

The decision came after 13 hours of nonstop negotiations with a state mediator on Jan. 22.

"I would say it is exciting because we came to a conclusion," Superintendent Buzz Brazeau said. "We went through quite a bit of tea."

The finale came after roughly seven months of negotiations. In November, teachers took to the streets in mock protest to make the community aware they were working without a new contract in place.

Teachers and parents alike packed school board meetings for the last two months to tell board members to settle on a fair contract.

Brazeau said he felt this contract is fair, and didn't mind the public display of support for teachers.

"I think it's always positive to see passion," he said.

Human Resources Director and Assistant Superintendent Rich McFarland said negotiations never got adversarial.

"I know tensions were high; people were stressed," he said.

Two of the biggest items in dispute were pay and insurance.

Teachers will receive a 3.25 percent increase in 2012-13, retroactive, and a 3 percent increase for 2013-14. The retroactive pay will either be paid in February as a separate line item, or perhaps a separate check, McFarland said.

According to a letter published on the district's website in December, the district originally offered 3 percent the first year and 2.25 percent the second. Teachers, according to the district's website, asked for 3 percent and 2.5 percent this year and next.

School Board Chairwoman Kathy Zehner said the increase in pay was to offset an additional student-contact, or instructional day, to be added next year. The school year will be 191 days rather than last year's 190 days.

Insurance caps remained the same for the next two years and did not change at all, McFarland said, though the district will contribute 85 percent of the gap between actual cost of premiums and the maximum district insurance contribution into a health reimbursement account for those teachers who choose a high-deductible plan. This contribution also will be retroactive, he added.

Some changes from the last contract were minor, including sections on teacher evaluations, sick leave and discretionary leave, McFarland said.

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