Teacher contracts on table | SteamboatToday.com
Susan Cunningham

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Teacher contracts on table

The Steamboat Springs Collaborative Bargaining Team has proposed raising teacher salaries an average of nearly 5 percent next year.

The proposed package, released this week, covers salaries, changes to health benefits, extra-duty payments and the district’s annual leave policy.

The package must be ap—-proved by a vote of all district employees. The vote is scheduled to take place June 9. The Collaborative Bargaining Team includes teacher, support staff, administrator and School Board representation.

Under the proposal, teacher salaries would increase by an average of 4.88 percent, and support staff salaries would increase by an average of 4 percent.

Superintendent Donna Ho—-well said the district is happy to provide a substantial salary increase at a time when many districts are giving small increases. The district values its teachers and staff, she said, and it is impossible to put a price tag on the value of their contributions.

“If we could, we would give them much more, but it’s a matter of what we can afford within the constraints of the budget,” Howell said.

Mike Smith, former president of the Steamboat Springs Education Association, said he hasn’t analyzed the proposals but that he has reservations about the salary increases.

He said he applauds the district for bringing salaries up to this year’s mean for comparable school districts. But, he said the school district still would be behind next year’s mean.

Under the proposed package, employees who work less than full-time will have benefits prorated based on how much they work. Currently, any employee who works more than half-time receives full benefits, and anyone working half-time or less does not receive benefits.

Employees who work less than half-time still would not have access to health insurance, but half-time employees would have access to half of the benefits. Teachers who work between half- and full-time would have prorated benefits. Teachers with prorated benefits would have to pay the remaining cost of benefits. All teachers who work half-time or more have to receive benefits.

Any savings from the pro-rated benefits would be applied to salary increases for next year.

Howell said the change is positive, as it allows half-time teachers to access a portion of the health benefits. The proposed change also creates equity in the district because teachers would receive benefits based on their assignments.

Howell said that a few half-time teachers would now get benefits, and a few part-time teachers would have reduced benefits. It should not affect too many people, and it puts a policy in place that can be used into the future.

The proposed change treats everybody fairly, Howell said.

Smith said he opposes prorated benefits because part-time teachers would have to pay leftover costs for their health benefits and cannot opt out of the program.

Another proposal in the package stipulates that extra-duty, or stipend, payments would be frozen for a year, unless they are below the mean of comparable districts, in which case they would be brought up to that mean.

The entire extra-duty payment schedule will be studied so the district can come up with a new payment proposal that accounts for what each duty involves, such as length of service, number of participants, length of season and travel time.

Dave Mellor, director of finance and operations for the district, said the proposal came about because a recent study showed that some sports coaches are paid substantially above what comparable coaches receive elsewhere.

Also under the proposed package, vocational education stipends would be eliminated. Employees receiving such stipends would be grandfathered in by receiving three additional steps on the salary schedule, which means they won’t lose money. New employees would be required to have certification in vocational education to receive additional salary steps. That change would get the district’s program in line with other districts.

Changes also are proposed for the district’s policy on annual leave, also called sick leave or personal leave. The new guidelines present a plan for paying-out accumulated leave to encourage staff not to use it. The guidelines also specify how the leave should be used. The payout is $42.50 a day, or half the cost of a substitute teacher, not including benefits. Administrators also get paid half-rate for accumulated leave.

— To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203

or e-mail scunningham@steamboatpilot.com