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Teachers pack away picket signs

GRANDVIEW - The school district and the teachers went back to the bargaining table Friday, Sept. 16.

"It was a give and take," Grandview's Education Association President Jamie Downing said.

The Grandview teachers and the district were at odds with a contract that neither group could agree on. Downing said the 1.9 percent pay cut enforced by state lawmakers would equal 3.4 days of pay they were going to lose if the district didn't step in.

The district said there wasn't much they could financially do without digging too deep into the reserve fund and possibly putting the entire district in the poor house.

The teachers asked the district to make up the cut through the reserve fund money, some saying the district was holding out with $6.9 million in reserves. The district said the reserves had not reached that number. District officials said after this year's budget is spent, the account will be depleted to the lower end of a projected $4 million.

At last week's bargaining session, teachers and the district agreed on a contract that both parties say is fair to all those involved.

The teachers association took the tentative agreement to its members on Wednesday, Sept. 21, and Downing said the membership ratified the two-year contract. Nearly 70 of the more than 200 members were in attendance and Downing said of the attendees, 100 percent approved the contract.

"We did (regain) our 3.4 days, but not all of it was in pay," Downing added.

The new contract agreement gives back to the teachers 1.8 days worth of pay, which is the 1 percent teachers were offered in the original contract proposal. Teachers wanted to regain the additional 0.9 percent in pay in cash through the district's reserve fund. What they got was an additional day of 'responsibility time incentive' which translates to one work day of pay.

"It is money added to their paycheck because we do realize the teachers work more than their contracted time," Chase said.

In addition, the teachers were offered one personal day that was normally given as time off can now be cashed out at the per diem rate.

"That brings us up to 2.8 days," Downing added.

Additionally, teachers were offered the remaining 0.6 of a work day in furlough time off.

"When we let the kids out of school for two Fridays, we won't have to stay for the professional development piece (that was originally scheduled)," Downing said.

Superintendent Kevin Chase says the district is equally pleased with the contract.

"We've reached a good equitable agreement on both parties' behalf," he said.

According to Chase, the district did its best to make up the state-mandated cut in pay and the teachers did their best to work with the district, including accepting furlough time. Chase says he thinks both the teachers and the district alike are ready to move on and focus on the exceptional teaching offered at Grandview's schools.

"We will continue to provide excellent education," he said.

Downing said the teachers are happy the conflict was resolved before the next step, mediation.

"We are glad to be done and focus (solely) on the kids," she said. "That's who we are here for."

The school board is set to vote to finalize the contract at its next meeting tonight, Sept. 26.

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