School Board OKs staff contract

Posted: Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The School Board voted unanimously to approve a contract agreement with the Juneau Educational Support Staff union at its regular meeting Tuesday.

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The three-year deal affects custodians, secretaries and nurses across the district.

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 rise by 25 cents per hour each year, and the district will contribute $50 to the employee health insurance plan each month for each employee.

"Without a doubt it's a big relief for us," JESS President Chet Durand said. "It's something that we don't have to deal with for three years."

Superintendent Peggy Cowan said getting the contract ratified by the School Board gives the district a sense of certainty for the next three years.

"The board clearly values teachers and values all the staff and is enthusiastic that we had the settlement with JESS," she said.

Cowan said in the end, finalizing the agreement really benefits the students.

"It's good for positive working relationships, and anytime we have positive working relationships that's also good for kids because that helps the school climate," she said.

Several members of the Juneau Education Association union, which represents teachers, attended the School Board meeting Tuesday, with a couple of them speaking during the public comment period. Negotiations between the district and that union reached an impasse Monday night, forcing the district and union to call in a mediator.

"Mediation has been successful in the past and I am confident that we'll be successful again," said JEA President Carol Shurson after Tuesday's board meeting.

"There is a representative from each side that will decide who the mediator is and when the mediator will come," she said.

Differences on take-home pay and benefits led to the impasse, Shurson said.

Cowan said she is very optimistic the negotiations will continue during the mediation sessions and is looking forward to working with the teachers.

"We'll choose a day and the mediator will come to town and we will work with both groups to mediate and hopefully come up with an agreement," she said. "I'm very optimistic. We were not done negotiating. We had not yet given our final proposal - the teachers called impasse."

Cowan said she was working with a representative from the teachers' union on Tuesday trying to select a mediator and a date for mediation, but did not know when it would be.

"We have not set a date yet but it will be in March or April," she said.

Cowan said it should be narrowed down relatively soon.

"I would expect by next week we will know," she said. "Maybe by the end of this week. It's just a matter of coordinating schedules."

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