Board, teachers reach tentative deal

Negotiators for the Minot Education Association and Minot Public School Board reached a tentative contract agreement Monday evening.

The tentative agreement calls for a two-year contract, with a $2,550 increase to the base salary for a beginning teacher in 2013-2014, bringing the base salary to $36,350, and a $1,150 increase to the base salary in 2014-2015, bringing the base salary to $37,500. That represents a 7.54 percent increase to the base salary in the first year of the contract and a 3.16 percent increase to the base salary in the second year of the contract, according to district business manager and board negotiator Scott Moum.

In addition, under the tentative agreement, the district would increase pay for teachers in the district with one year and two years of experience by increasing the salary index multipliers by 1.3 percent each year of the contract.

The district will pay the cost of health insurance increases for teachers, which are estimated to increase by 6.3 percent for 2013-2014 and 7 percent for 2014-2015.

Under the tentative agreement, the district would also increase the payment for unused sick leave for eligible employees from $10 to $20 per day.

The district would also pay the substitute rate of pay in addition to regular salaries for elementary teachers who are required to take over another teacher’s class as well as her own for a full or half a day.

Other items in the tentative agreement were the subject of more contention, most related to leave for teachers. The final board proposal called for ending the “career exploration leave” option for teachers. The board dropped a proposal to limit “child-rearing leave” to one year, but is requiring that teachers intending to take the leave notify the board by Feb. 15 prior to the year they plan to take leave.

The board also resisted adding a third personal leave day for teachers, which MEA board negotiator Marlene Srock said had been very important to their members. Teachers currently have two personal leave days and can accumulate up to five from year to year. The tentative agreement does call for teachers to be paid the substitute teacher daily rate of pay for each day of unused personal leave in excess of three accumulated days.

Negotiations lasted 4 1/2 hours on Monday before both sides reached their tentative agreement.

Board negotiators told the MEA that negotiations were likely to end in impasse if the MEA failed to settle on Monday.

“We do feel this is a very good and fair proposal,” said board member and negotiator Brenda Foster.

Board vice president and board negotiator Roger Kluck said he would be disappointed if an agreement couldn’t be reached on Monday night. Kluck said the board negotiators had gone above and beyond what business manager Moum felt the district had available to offer.

MEA negotiators had asked for more time to consider the board’s offer and come back with a response, but board negotiators said they would have less time available to negotiate later in the summer and didn’t want to extend negotiations into mid-June. If the MEA wasn’t willing to reach a tentative agreement on Monday night, board negotiators said they might as well begin impasse proceedings.

After further discussion, the MEA came back to the table and said they were in tentative agreement. The MEA and the school board negotiators still need to resolve some language in the contract, largely related to sick leave and under what circumstances the district would pay the cost of a doctor’s visit for an employee who is required to obtain a doctor’s note after taking sick leave.

Both the full school board and a 60 percent majority of MEA voting members will need to approve the final contract before it can be ratified.