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The Juneau Education Association union and the Juneau School District announced Thursday they have agreed on a tentative three-year contract for teachers.
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"I can't remember the last time we had a three-year deal, or a deal this early in the school year," said Carol Shurson, union president and chef and gourmet teacher at Juneau-Douglas High School.
Both parties must ratify the agreement before it becomes official. The School Board will vote on it at its regular meeting on April 4. The union membership is scheduled to vote on the agreement on April 5.
The negotiating teams declared an impasse earlier this month, which brought local attorney Vance Sanders to the table for mediation.
"It was a very constructive mediation session," Superintendent Peggy Cowan said. "Mediation worked very well and was productive and helped us pull together."
The tentative agreement would give teachers a 2 percent salary increase in fiscal year 2007, a 2.5 percent increase in 2008 and a 3 percent increase in 2009. It also includes increases for experience level and courses beyond a bachelor's degree. The district also agreed to increase the health insurance contribution for each teacher by $90 per month for fiscal years 2007 and 2008, and $100 per month in 2009.
"I feel it's a very fair deal," Shurson said.
Cowan said it is nice to have reached a tentative agreement so the district can shift the time and energy spent on negotiations to other important issues.
"It's a wonderful thing for the district in terms of being able to move forward and not being bogged down by the negotiations," she said.
Shurson said the tentative agreement also includes extra compensation for specialists with national or clinical licenses, including school psychiatrists, speech and language pathologists, physical therapists and more. She said they would be able to receive $3,000 in 2007, $4,000 in 2008 and $5,000 for 2009, in addition to the wage increase.
Shurson said the three-year contract would create a better working environment for the teachers in Juneau's schools.
"Negotiations are always difficult for everyone involved and this way we won't have to do it for another couple of years," she said.
Cowan said the contracts would make a better learning environment for the students.
"We won't be diverting that time and energy on contracts, so we can focus on the kids and student learning," she said.
"If teachers are happy, kids are happy," Shurson said.
Contract negotiations for the Juneau School Administrative Association union will take place in April. That union represents about 20 district employees, including principals and some central office administrators.