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The Juneau Educational Support Staff union and the Juneau School District announced Thursday they have reached a tentative three-year contract agreement.
Under the contract, the pay schedule increases 1.5 percent for 2006-07, 1 percent for 2007-08, and 1.5 percent for 2008-09. Additionally, the hourly rates would be increased by 25 cents per hour each year, and the district will contribute $50 each month for each employee to the employee health insurance plan.
"We have a lot of folks on the low end of the pay scale, so it's going to be extremely helpful to them," JESS President Chet Durand said.
Durand said he is pleased with the proposed contract. The union serves more than 200 employees across the district, ranging from school nurses to custodians.
The two parties have tentatively agreed for the contract also to increase hourly pay each year and the contribution to the employee health insurance plan.
The School Board must vote to approve the agreement at its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday before it becomes official.
Superintendent Peggy Cowan said the district was focused on providing a three-year contract, the longest allowed under state law. She said the agreements in recent years have been for one- or two-year contracts that require a lot of time and energy for repeated negotiations.
Support staff wages
2006-07: 1.5 percent
2007-08: 1 percent
2008-09: 1.5 percent
Each year: $0.25 per hour
Each month: $50 per employee for health insurance plan
"Without negotiating as regularly, we'll be able to take that time from all the players to focus on student learning and improving instruction," Cowan said. "There's a lot of important educational subjects facing the board and the district and this will allow more time to address those."
Cowan said the negotiations with the Juneau Education Association teachers union are ongoing, but she could not discuss when an agreement may be made.
"We've been negotiating with teachers about the same length of time as we have with JESS," she said. "The process has been productive, and I'm hopeful for a settlement."
The three-year JESS contract agreement allows the district to plan and budget better for the future, Cowan said.
Because the negotiations are confidential, Cowan said she couldn't discuss specifics. But the district is pleased with the outcome.
"We're satisfied that this is a good compromise and that the provisions are to the benefit of both the employees and the students by coming to terms with this agreement," she said.
Durand said there were things JESS was hoping to secure through the negotiations that didn't come to fruition.
"There's always things that you shoot for," he said. "You always shoot for the moon. ... That doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get it, because that's not how it works."
Durand said the negotiations were professional and courteous. He said JESS and JSD have been building an "exceptionally good" relationship in recent years, which he said helped the negotiations.
"We've all made a real effort just to make things work better because we are all here for the kids and we all recognize that," Durand said.
Eric Morrison can be reached at email@example.com.