Juneau's teachers on Thursday night quickly ratified a contract for this school year that gives them raises.
Members of the Juneau Education Association - which includes about 340 teachers, librarians, counselors, psychologists and other specialists - had threatened to strike if they didn't get a favorable contract. Teachers met for a few minutes in the Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium Thursday before streaming into the commons to vote. JEA President Ben Kriegmont said the contract passed. The union doesn't publicize the details of its votes.
The district announced the tentative agreement Nov. 21, nearly a year after contentious negotiations began. School Board President Mary Becker said she expected the board to ratify the contract on Dec. 18.
The new contract will be retroactive to the start of the fiscal year and run from July 1, 2003, to June 30, 2004. Pay will range from $34,263 to $65,988 for 182 days of work.
The agreement increases the rates on the salary schedule by 2 percent. The contract also incorporates an earlier School Board decision to move eligible teachers up the salary schedule.
Those increases in salary steps for added experience are worth 3 percent, the district said. Teachers who also moved into another column on the schedule for earning further college credits, which is paid at their own expense, received a 0.6 percent increase as well. About two-thirds of teachers are eligible for step or column movements, union officials have said.
The tentative agreement also adds $85 per teacher to what the district has paid for monthly health-insurance premiums. The district's contribution will increase from $550 to $635 out of the total per-teacher cost of $793 a month.
The new agreement also increases preparation time for elementary school teachers from 150 minutes a week to 180 minutes. Three schools already offer the higher amount of time. Teachers had asked for 250 minutes.
Superintendent Peggy Cowan said district officials have talked about paying as a lump sum the additional monthly health insurance contribution owed teachers to date. The salary raises might be added to future paychecks but prorated to include what is owed from July 1, she said.
"For me, it was fair," said Amy Kesten, a teacher at Yaakoosge Daakahidi, the alternative high school. "The worst part is we have to go and sit down again and negotiate."
Jeremy Neldon, a teacher at Glacier Valley Elementary School, had mixed reactions. He said he is disconcerted it is only a one-year contract.
"I think it is something," he said of the contract. "I still don't think it's completely fair to teachers in general. I think we definitely have proven our worth."
Neldon added, "Many teachers are just happy that they showed their will and it didn't come to a strike."