Resolving teacher contract disputes

WILLISTON An education fact-finding hearing was held in Williston last week to try to resolve a dispute over teacher contract negotiations between the Williston school district and the teachers union.

There are five points of dispute, most revolving around teacher pay and leave policies, said Superintendant Viola LaFontaine. LaFontaine said the state fact-finding commission’s report is due back on Oct. 23.

The main point of dispute is over salary. Teachers proposed increasing the base salary to $38,000, an increase of $7,500; the school district had countered with an offer of increasing the base salary to $33,000, up $2,500.

Other issues revolved around how many years of experience veteran teachers new to the district will be credited with. Years of experience awarded affects their place on the salary schedule.

Another issue is how much sick leave can be accumulated by teachers and how many years they must work in the district to accumulate the sick leave. The school district had proposed cutting back on that benefit while teachers want to leave it as it is.

Another issue raised was extra duty pay for coaches, who also want a raise based on experience.

Teachers had made the request, keeping the higher cost of living in Williston in mind. LaFontaine said the board has taken the position that the teachers’ requests would be too costly to the district, especially if given all in one year.

“It would cost even more than the new money we got (this year),” said LaFontaine.

LaFontaine said the district will likely be asking voters to approve a school bond issue next April for new school construction. An earlier bond issue recently failed to pass.

Upon receiving the fact-finding commission’s report, the teachers and the school board are required to meet at least once to try to attempt a final resolution of the impasse. They will have 20 days after receiving the report to reach an agreement. If they are still at impasse past the 20 day limit, the commission report will be published in the local paper and the chairman of the fact-finding commission will explain to the public why the negotiations failed and who the commission believes to be at fault.