October 23, 2013The Crawford County Community School Corp. Board of Trustees and the Crawford County Classroom Teachers Association have come to an agreement.
During a meeting Oct. 8 at the administration building near Marengo, trustees voted unanimously to pass the new master contract for its teachers. It draws an end to the tension-building time crunch the corporation has been under to adopt a new agreement for its educators.
"It's going to take longer to get to the top of our pay scale," Ann Richardson, co-president of CCCTA and a teacher at Milltown Elementary School, said. "It's going to take 16 steps instead of 15, now."
Superintendent Dr. Mark Eastridge said under Indiana law, the formal bargaining of a new contract cannot begin until Aug. 1.
Each contract begins Aug. 1 and runs until July 31 of the following year. School began this year on Aug. 2, making it impossible to have a contract in place by the time teachers and students were to return to the classroom.
Had the two parties not come to an agreement before the Sept. 30 deadline, the process would have moved from direct bargaining between the two factions to a mediated approach with a state-appointed mediator.
If within three mediated meetings an agreement was still not reached, the process then would have gone into the fact-finding phase and a state-appointed fact-finder would have been appointed. The process from mediation to fact-finding completion, should it ever become necessary, takes approximately a month and a half.
The new master contract, though, has garnered acceptance from the majority of teachers in the CCCTA.
"It makes us more competitive with local schools," Matt Poe, CCCTA co-president and a social studies teacher at Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, said. "It's easier to make another step than it is for him (Eastridge) to say 'Let's give them a $4,000 raise.' "
Richardson said teachers haven't received a raise since 2007.
She also said that educators at the bottom 1.5 percent of the pay scale haven't seen an increase in five years while those at the top had seen only a 3-percent increase.
"We have lost at least five teachers to other school corporations," Richardson said "They were making considerably more money when they left and went to other school corporations."
Richardson and Poe agreed that in order to stop the flow of quality educators leaving the county, they had to be brought on par with the rest of the teachers in the neighboring schools.
They said the school corporation is capable of bringing teachers up to neighboring counties' standards due to a piece of legislation passed by former Gov. Mitch Daniels regarding capping the insurance each school corporation is allowed to pay for its employees.
"The amount that we can pay as of Jan. 1 will be capped," Eastridge said. "And we don't know exactly how that's going to work out because we don't have all of the final paperwork from our insurance vendor. We won't have the quotes for probably another two to three weeks, but we have this window that the state tells us to get it settled within."
While the numbers are still up in the air, the legislation has allowed the school corporation to reallocate the funds into the teacher salary.
There will be a $2,000 increase for each step of the graduated pay scale that the system currently utilizes.
"It's about a 6-percent increase for the bottom and a 3.5-percent increase at the top," Richardson said. "And that is the bulk of our teachers."
Poe said the new increase is much better than the percent increase or percent of salary-based raise that many schools utilize due to the difference in salary between employees.
"We didn't differ on this at all," Eastridge said. "We realized that we have to address the starting salary in order to attract good, younger folks to our school corporation."
He said results are driven by the quality of people in the classroom and the new pay scale will help bring quality educators into the county and make the corporation competitive.
Also voted on at the meeting was the salary increases for the administration and support staffs for the 2013-14 school year. Trustees voted for a $2,000 salary adjustment for administration staff, with the exception of the superintendent's position as well as other contract employees. The support staff salary increase was also approved.