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JSD, JEA come to agreement

One-year deal means negotiations will resume within school year

Posted: September 7, 2012 - 12:13am

The Juneau School District and Juneau Education Association, the union representing most of Juneau’s teachers, ratified a final collective bargaining agreement this week, the JSD announced late Wednesday.

The text of the agreement was not yet available to the public as of Thursday evening, but it is known the contract is only a one-year deal and negotiators will have to return to the bargaining table in just a few months to hammer out another contract beyond the 2012-13 school year.

“It is unfortunate that it is only a one year deal, which means we are back at the bargaining table this winter, which is a huge amount of time for our teacher’s on the bargaining team, and for the school district’s administrators,” JEA President Ben Kriegmont wrote in an email. “Hopefully we’ll be able to come to a resolution more quickly, more easily, this upcoming round and we will all be able to focus all of our energies on the students.”

David Means, director of administrative services at the JSD and a member of its bargaining team, said he is glad to have reached a resolution but wary of such a quick return to the process.

“I’m pleased that we’re finished with negotiations, but I’m also worried,” said Means. “This is a one-year agreement, and we will be back at the bargaining table later this winter and throughout spring again. So it’s kind of a mixed reaction.”

Sally Saddler, president of the JSD Board of Education, said she is “appreciative” of both sides reaching an agreement.

“I’m really pleased that we were able to come up with this one-year contract and get back to focusing on our kids,” Saddler said.

The contract does not include a cost-of-living adjustment for teacher salaries, though it does touch on benefits, according to Means.

“The biggest thing is we increased the district’s contribution for health insurance by $100 a month,” Means said. “We did not change the salary schedule at all. We added one day of paid personal leave.”

Kriegmont wrote, “Certainly, there were members of our bargaining unit who were unhappy with an agreement that did not include an adjustment to our salary schedule to reflect the increased cost of living, but I think we reached a fair compromise on issues.”

The school district has been digging its way out of a deficit. About 100 staff positions were recently eliminated as part of its effort to balance the budget, and Saddler said those fiscal constraints strongly influenced negotiations.

“I wish we had more money, that we were able to do better in the monetary department,” Saddler lamented.

Means said he expects negotiations on the next contract will face the same issue and be similarly “difficult.”

“We are, in the district, faced with a very tight budget,” said Means. “So it’s going to be difficult for us to enhance the salary and benefit package for teachers.”

JSD spokeswoman Kristin Bartlett said in an email interview that the text of the contract still needs to be updated to reflect late revisions agreed to by the JSD and JEA negotiators.

“Once it is finalized and distributed, it will be posted on Human Resources section of the school district website,” Bartlett concluded.

The agreement is retroactive to July 1 and runs through June 30, 2013, according to the JSD announcement.

The bargaining process began in January, reached an impasse in May and produced a tentative agreement after mediation last month. That agreement, with modifications, was unanimously ratified by the school board on Tuesday.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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