After months of debate between union leaders and district representatives, the Douglas County School Board ratified a new contract for its teachers last week promising them an 8 percent raise over the next two years.
"It's a huge victory," said Susan Lacey, a special education teacher at Meneley Elementary School and president of the Douglas County Professional Education Association. "Teachers are elated."
Prior to the new contract, teachers in Douglas County with a bachelor's degree started at $33,067 for a 186-calendar-day contract. Teachers with a master's degree started at $38,100.
During their salary negotiations with the district in September, teacher unions declared an impasse because they felt they weren't being offered what they deserved. Declaring an impasse forced settlement to a third party.
On Feb. 6 and 7, Barry Whinograd of Oakland, Calif., a professional labor arbitrator, mediated negotiations between the two parties.
"It's a compromise," said Rich Alexander, Douglas County School District Human Resources Director. "In mediation, both parties reach an agreement without it being forced upon them. It then goes back to the teachers and the board for ratification."
According to the new contract, teachers will receive a 3 percent salary increase for the first six months of the 2007-2008 school year, applied retroactively, and a 1 percent increase for the last six months of the year. In 2008-2009, teachers will receive a 2 percent raise the first six months and another 2 percent raise the last six months.
Also included in the contract is what Lacey called a "teacher protection" measure.
"It ensures a language of just cause," said Lacey.
The measure prevents post-probationary teachers, those who've passed their first two-year probationary period, from being suspended, dismissed or not reemployed without just cause.
The contract also gave elementary school teachers 30 more minutes of preparation time a week, for a total of 120 minutes.
Principals must now ensure teachers have at least two 30-minute periods a week before class when they can work on lesson plans, plus an additional 60 minutes while students are in physical education or music class, Alexander said.
"This was an agreement made that was good for both parties," he said.
Board members unanimously ratified the agreement.
"I am very pleased to see that we are moving forward," said board President Teri Jamin.