Williston teacher negotiations continue

Williston teachers and the Williston School Board are still trying to arrive at a contract for the 2013-2014 school year, said Supt. Viola LaFontaine.

Contract negotiations ended in impasse, mainly over a dispute regarding the amount of a salary increase and leave for teachers, and the state education fact finding commission held a hearing in Williston on Oct. 1.

The commission released its recommendations in late October. LaFontaine said the school board has accepted the recommendations and is prepared to issue contracts, while the teachers still dispute some the recommendations.

Another meeting is scheduled next week to determine whether an agreement can be reached. LaFontaine said after one more meeting, the school board can issue contracts based on the commission’s recommendations. The Williston Education Association would have the right to take a dispute to court if they continue to disagree, she said.

LaFontaine said some of the recommendations favored the teachers and others the board.

Over salary, the biggest sticking point, the commission adopted the board’s final offer.

The commission recommended a $2,500 increase in the base salary, bringing the base from $30,500 to $33,000, with a change in the lowest cells of the matrix so no teacher will make less than $36,000. The cost to the district would be $1.75 million or a 13.5 percent salary and benefit increase over the previous year.

The Williston Education Association’s final position was to increase the base in the current salary schedule by $7,500 from $35,000 to $38,000. A teacher with 21 years of service with a master’s degree plus 24 credits would receive an increase of $14,700 from $64,730 to $79,430.

In its recommendation, the commission said it made this recommendation considering the challenges facing the district because of sharply increased enrollment and the anticipated need for new building construction and hiring new teachers and staff to accommodate the demand. The commission also notes that the salary schedule will be competitive with comparable districts and will be higher than that offered by Minot and Dickinson.

The fact-finding commission also recommended the following:

A one-year contract for the 2013-2014 school year.

That teachers new to the school district be given credit on the salary schedule for years of teaching experience following receipt of a college baccalaureate degree up to and including 13 years. This recommendation favored the teachers, who had requested that teachers new to the district receive a maximum of 13 years of credit on the salary schedule, with the board countering that new teachers should receive a maximum of 12 years of credit on the salary schedule for previous teaching experience.

That teachers be granted three paid days of personal leave annually, cumulative to five days. With all teachers receiving an additional personal leave day the commission recommends the elimination of the additional personal leave day that was granted after a teacher was in the district for 10 years.

No change to the current sick leave benefit for teachers, a proposal that favored the teachers. The board had wanted to change the sick leave policy.

That all extra duties be paid as a percentage of the base index salary as agreed to by the Williston Education Association and the school board. Any additional pay for years of experience can be addressed during the 2014-2015 contract negotiations.