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School board approves worker contracts

LANGLEY — The South Whidbey school board approved two contracts for its school district workers during its regular meeting Wednesday night.

The agreements, approved unanimously by the board without discussion, had been placed on the consent agenda for routine items.

The lack of fanfare on the union agreements stood in stark contrast to events just weeks ago, when approximately 80 teachers picketed near the district office. Union officials said contract talks were at a standstill and they would ask a state mediator to step in.

That never happened, however, as both sides returned to the negotiating table earlier this month and hammered out a deal. Negotiators for the district and the union reached a tentative agreement late June 13, and teachers approved the contract with a vote on June 19.

The South Whidbey Education Association, the union that represents teachers, had asked for a 3 percent raise, while the district had suggested a 0.5 percent pay raise.

The new teachers’ contract includes a 2 percent increase in pay over the course of the two-year agreement.

The approved pay raise covers 68 of the 129 teachers, said Dan Poolman, finance director for the South Whidbey School District. It will give those instructors $355 in “time, responsibility and incentive” money, or TRI pay, to acknowledge the extra time that teachers give to the district over and above the 182 contracted days, he said.

“TRI pay is an acknowledgement that we realize that they work more than their 182-day contract and it is a way of paying them for some of that time,” Poolman said.

Other issues addressed in the contract include the provision of more non-teaching days and personal days off.

Special education teachers and other special needs professionals will also receive an additional day of substitute time or per-diem pay.

The school board also approved a contract with the Public School Employees’ union, which represents employees such as secretaries, para-educators and other non-teaching positions within the district.

A salary equalization measure worth approximately $12,000 was a main component of the new contract.

“Salary equalization is basically a process where we will look at the several different classifications within that union, and compare their salaries with the averages in the area,” Poolman said.

“And if we find that one of those classifications, or two or three, is below the regional average, then we’d use that money to raise the base pay categories to get it to an area where it is comfortable salary level,” he said.

The school board also approved a change to Fred McCarthy’s contract as district superintendent.

The board extended McCarthy’s contract by a year to 2010. It also increased his salary by 3.7 percent, the amount legislated as a cost-of-living increase for all state employees.

McCarthy will now be paid a total salary of $129,625.

Spencer Webster can be reached at 221-5300 or at swebster@southwhidbeyrecord.com

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