Stillwater News Press

Local News

August 17, 2012

Unions approve negotiated contracts

STILLWATER, Okla. — Stillwater teachers and support staff approved 2012-13 contracts Friday that include pay hikes and stipends for professional growth and attendance.

Teachers voted unanimously to ratify a contract that will result in an average salary increase of 3.4 percent. Support personnel voted to approve a contract that includes an average pay increase of 3.5 percent. Two hundred support staff union members voted for the contract, while 39 voted against it.

“For the most part our members were thrilled with this year’s contract,” said Vada Harmon, president of the support staff union. “We went in with high expectations and we came out amazed that we received everything we went in for.”

The contracts will go before the Stillwater Board of Education for final ratification at 5 p.m. Monday at the administration building.

The salary increases will cost the district an additional $628,000 for certified staff and $196,000 for support staff, according to Phillip Storm, chief financial officer for the district. Storm said the district has not changed the salary scale in five years.

“The reason the district is able to fund raises this year is due to the fact we have been pretty fiscally conservative for the last three or four years,” said Storm. “And we’ve seen our fund balance grow to a pretty healthy level. This year we expect revenue to be flat and consistent with revenues from last year. We felt this is the year that we needed to reward staff.”

Storm said the salary increases will come from the fund balance.

“I think our team represented Stillwater teachers very well,” said Jason Weber, the chief negotiator for the teacher’s union. “We are dynamic and diverse and pull together and work well as a team. And working with the Stillwater Public Schools’ team, it’s been a wonderful experience. The whole process was seamless and smooth. ... The end goal is doing the best we can for our students. And that means obtaining and retaining the best teachers for Stillwater.”

The teachers will receive a 2 percent pay hike on each step of the salary scale.

“For the teachers, the focus really was on salary and to improve their bottom line,” said Stillwater Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Jim Ryan, the district’s chief negotiator. “That (average pay increase of) 3.4 percent is a percentage that is above the national average, which is 2.9 percent.”

“I am appreciative of anything and a 2 percent raise is fabulous,” said Suzy Roderick, a speech pathologist at Will Rogers Elementary School. “I’m proud of our negotiating team.”

“It looks like a pretty good deal to me,” said Trevor Fieldsend, who teaches technology engineering at Stillwater Junior High. “Any sort of pay increase is a good deal.”

Teachers also will receive a one-time stipend of $3,000 for obtaining an advanced degree.

“As a district, we want all of our teachers to stay engaged professionally,” said Ryan. “Our goal is to increase the number of our teachers with bachelor’s degrees and earning master’s degrees. Or if they have a master’s degree, to earn more credits toward their Ph.D. We want our teachers to get advanced degrees.”

Teachers also approved an attendance incentive as a pilot program. They will receive $250 for perfect attendance in the first semester, and $250 for perfect attendance in the second semester. An additional clause allows for unused personal and vacation days to be rolled over into sick leave.

“We expect high attendance from our students but when a teacher is missing it affects lots of students,” said Ryan. “It’s always our goal to improve teacher attendance, especially in these days of high accountability with testing. If teachers aren’t there we aren’t getting high quality instruction. So that’s why we are putting in this pilot program. We’ll evaluate it next summer to see if it helped with attendance.”

“The idea is, and it’s a great idea, that we want teachers in their classrooms,” said Weber. “Teachers have legally-binding days that they are allowed to take off, but we hope this is really an incentive for them to stay in their rooms and teach their kids.”

Support personnel will receive their normal step increase and an additional 25 cents an hour. The average salary increase will be 3.5 percent. Ryan said that depending on where an employee is on the salary scale, the raise could be approximately 40 cents an hour.

Members also voted to approve a measure that will allow workers to roll over personal days into sick days.

Ryan said workers now will be allowed to roll over vacation days into the next year.

“It used to be that if you didn’t use (vacation days), you’d lose them,” he said. “Now anyone who gets vacation will be able to carry over up to 20 days.”

Ryan said, for example, he gets 15 vacation days per year. If he didn’t use any of them this year, he would start next year with 30 vacation days, but would have to use at least 10 in the second year but would carry over 20 days.

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