School board OKs contracts with retroactive pay raises

Pact gives JESS 1 percent pay raises in each of next 2 years

Posted: Sunday, June 27, 2004

The Juneau School Board unanimously approved contracts containing future and retroactive raises with two unions Friday.

The contracts are for two school years and begin July 1.

Chris Blust, president of the Juneau Education Support Staff, said in a statement that union negotiators and school district officials worked in a partnership on the new contract.

"We were delighted with our relationship," Blust said. "They realized that many people in our lower ranges weren't making it."

Chet Durand, vice president of JESS, was similarly happy.

"I've been with them for 20 years, and this is the most pleased I've seen the members with a contract," Durand said. "We're just elated. Some of the old staff have come to me, and they're very pleased with the school district."

The new contracts with the Juneau Education Support Staff and the Juneau School Administrative Association provide a retroactive raise of 2 percent for the just-ended school year.

The district agreed to the retroactive raises because the teachers had received 2 percent raises for this past school year, and the other two unions, which settled before the teachers, had not.

The contract with JESS also provides 1 percent raises in each of the next two school years, and it allows eligible employees to move up the salary schedule, which rewards workers with more pay for added years of experience.

JESS members currently are paid at hourly rates from $11.19 to $24.04. Most work nine months a year, but some work 10 or 12 months.

Also, the union will assume control of its members' health insurance. The details of the plan haven't been finalized, said Pete Ford, a negotiator with the Alaska Public Employees Association/AFT, which helped JESS in the negotiations.

The district will contribute $685 a month to the insurance premium next school year and $735 a month the year after that. That represents a $50 increase each year from the current district contribution.

JESS represents about 280 employees, including teacher assistants, maintenance workers, custodians, nurses, RALLY day care personnel, office workers, computer technicians and Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium technicians.

The contract also includes an increase in life insurance and an increase in the tool allowance for maintenance workers.

Bonnie Lantz, a union negotiator, said in a statement that she hopes the new contract will help the district retain its support staff.

"We had a large turnover in the staff, which was ultimately hurting the kids," she said.

The new contract with the Juneau School Administrative Association also includes movement up the salary schedule and 1 percent increases to the salary rates in each of the next two school years. In the second year, those employees who are at the top of the salary schedule will receive an additional $800.

The agreement also increases the district's contribution toward each employee's health insurance premium to $685 a month next school year and $735 a month the year after that.

The union has 21 members and represents principals, assistant principals and some districtwide administrators.

"I think that the administrators felt that it was fair," said Charla Wright, a union negotiator.

Meanwhile, the district and the teachers' union have scheduled a nonbinding arbitration for Tuesday.

The 340-member Juneau Education Association represents teachers, counselors, psychologists and other specialists.

Teachers are seeking movement up the salary schedule, increases to the rates, and a larger district contribution to health insurance premiums.

The parties have been discussing a two-year contract. The current contract expires next Wednesday.

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