Alaska Digest

Posted: Friday, April 02, 2004

Teachers, district to continue contract talks

JUNEAU - A mediation Wednesday between the Juneau School District and its teachers did not produce a new contract, but the parties may talk again later this month.

The sticking point is money. The 340-member Juneau Education Association has been seeking a two-year contract with raises each year; movement up the salary schedule, which pays more for added years of experience or college credits; and a larger district contribution to health insurance premiums, which are expected to rise.

The district has said it can't afford any of that unless it gets more state money.

Both sides exchanged proposals and information in the mediation, and they may meet on April 21 rather than go immediately to arbitration, said Superintendent Peggy Cowan.

During the mediation, the parties discussed what the district would do if it receives more state funding.

"We hope that by that time (April 21) we might have a more accurate picture from the Legislature," Cowan said.

Without any additional state funding, the district is still proposing a "hard freeze" for two years for teachers, said Molly Box, a spokeswoman for the JEA.

"This means that teachers will take home approximately $1,200 less next year, and an additional $2,400 less in '05-'06, because of the rising health insurance costs," she said.

The Juneau School Board has passed tentative budgets for the next two school years that presume no added state money. The budgets include laying off 26 teachers next school year and 20 in the following year, as well as other cuts to services.

Box said the teachers hope that even without additional state funding the district and School Board will take "a serious look at their spending and start prioritizing for the kids of Juneau. We feel there are still many areas of the budget that need tightening before our class sizes are increased."

Thane Road to close for 2 1/2 hours today

JUNEAU - Thane Road will be closed from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. today as the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities conducts avalanche control activities.

The department plans to fire avalanche control shots from the Treadwell Mine area on Douglas Island to the west slope of Mount Roberts.

For more information contact the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities at 465-1788 or 465-1779.

Prayer breakfast set for Saturday

JUNEAU - The Governor's Prayer Breakfast will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Juneau-Douglas High School atrium. The cost is $15. Tickets are available at Hearthside Books.

The draft program includes a welcome by Pastor Mike Rose of the Juneau Christian Center, the posting of the colors by the U.S. Coast Guard and an invocation by Pastor Steven Olmstead of Chapel by the Lake.

Sen. Ralph Seekins, R-Fairbanks, is scheduled to read from the Old Testament and Rep. Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, will read from the New Testament. Sen. Bettye Davis, D-Anchorage, will offer a prayer for leadership.

There will be music by Paul and Melissa Zahasky, Ken and Charlotte Truitt and Olmstead.

Doug Burleigh of the Leadership Development Foundation will speak, followed by a response from Lt. Gov. Loren Leman. Pastor Associate Tracee Hackel of Chapel by the Lake will give the closing remarks and a prayer.

The idea for the prayer breakfast came out of the Clapham Fellowship, which meets at the Capitol on Tuesday morning for Bible study and prayer. The Juneau Governor's Prayer Breakfast and the Clapham Fellowship are non-partisan and non-denominational.

The first annual prayer breakfast in Juneau in recent years occurred last year at Centennial Hall.

"It is a community event sponsored by politicians, professionals, and business and church leaders who are willing to attend a prayer breakfast to build local leadership," said Julie Morris, a Juneau School Board member and chairwoman of the committee organizing it.

House OKs restaurant inspection bill

JUNEAU - A bill requiring restaurant workers to become certified to handle food narrowly passed the House on Thursday, despite objections from conservative Republicans and some Democrats.

The bill would let the state Department of Environmental Conservation require restaurant workers to pass a safe food-handling test and pay for a $10 food-handling certificate.

Managers would have to get a higher level of training. They would be required to develop operating procedures and inspect their own facilities, maintaining records that DEC could audit.

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