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Teachers, support staff get contracts in Sterling

Federal mediator helps district finalize 2-year agreements

STERLING – The Sterling School District has approved 2-year contracts with teachers and support staff.

The school board unanimously approved the contracts during a brief meeting Monday.

The Sterling Education Association, which represents teachers, counselors and other certified staff members, will receive a 2 percent salary increase on the base for the 2014-15 school year and a 1 percent base increase for 2015-16.

The current base pay for teachers is $29,652. That will increase to $30,245 in 2014-15 and to $30,547 in 2015-16.

The Sterling Association of Educational Support Personnel, which represents bus drivers, food service workers, and other support staff, will get a 3.7 percent hourly rate increase for the 2014-15 school year and a 2 percent increase in 2015-16.

For the support staff, hourly rates vary by position, now ranging from $9.45 to $11.70 an hour for beginning pay.

School officials estimate the cost for both contracts will be just over $400,000 for the 2 years, including an estimated increase in health and dental insurance premiums in the second year.

Both groups also agreed to a switch from a self-insured employee benefit plan to a fully insured health and dental plan with Cottingham and Butler, which is based in Dubuque, Iowa.

“For decades, we’ve had a self-insured organization,” said Tad Everett, superintendent of the school district. “We are now out of the insurance business, in the sense that we don’t have ownership in that plan anymore.”

Everett said teachers in the school district had been without a contract for the past 3 weeks. The last day of the previous contract was June 30.

“Instead of paying teachers 12 months a year, we pay them 9 months a year, and the last check is for 3 months,” Everett said. “Under our structure, we had until the start of school to get a deal done, since there is no payroll for teachers over the summer because of our structure.”

The school district has been negotiating a new deal with teachers and support staff since October. A federal mediator recently got involved with the talks.

“A federal mediator was here on July 9,” Everett said. “It was an all-day session.”

Soon after that session, the teachers and the support staff ratified a new agreement.

“We are just really elated that we have reached a tentative agreement,” Denise Harts, president of the SEA, said to the school board. “It was a delightful experience for the most part, and I’m glad we are done.”

Now that a contract is settled, Everett said, everyone can work together on one thing.

“We are ready to get back to what we do best, which is educating kids,” he said.

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