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Morris Area School Board and Morris Teachers' Association reach contract settlement

MORRIS, Minn. - The Morris Area School Board approved a new two-year contract with the Morris Teachers' Association that includes bases raises for each year and the opportunity for teachers to advance through step and lane changes.

According to the agreement, all teachers will receive a 2.75 percent all-inclusive increase for 2011 - 2012, and a 3.17 percent increase in 2012 - 2013.

The agreement also includes pay increases as part of the step schedule, which is based on years of service and education. Teachers will receive a $600 per cell increase for Steps 1 - 13 and an $800 increase to Step 14 in both years of the contract. In 2012 - 2013, the district will also increase hourly pay from $23 to $27 and increase the extra/co-curricular salary schedule by 1 percent.

"As is typical with any negotiations, we had some differences to work through," said Stan Wulf, board vice-chair, who participated in the negotiations. "One thing that, in the end, we very much had in common was a strong desire to want to work together in continuing to improve our culture of teamwork, respect, and accountability."

Traditionally, teacher contracts, which are negotiated every two years, must be in place by January 15. This year the 2011 Legislature repealed the deadline, which would have hit at midnight on Tuesday, Jan. 17 because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, said Education Minnesota, a union of 70,000 educators.

As of Wednesday, Education Minnesota reported that 184 of the 338 contracts - 55 percent - across the state are still not settled. Two years ago, when the deadline was in place, only 18 percent of contracts were unsettled when the deadline arrived.

The organization also reports that salary increases across the state are averaging just 0.88 percent in the first year, and 1.03 percent in the second year - figures only slightly higher that the record-low settlements put in place two years ago. Thirty-seven percent of the settled contracts have no wage increase for one or both years.

There are still some issues left on the table for the MTA and district that the new contract does not address. Some of these concerns include updating the seniority list, providing some flexibility to staff members for meetings scheduled before 8 a.m., making adjustments to the parent-teacher conference schedule and discussing challenges for elementary school specialists.

A full summary of the details in the agreement as provided to the school board is attached to this story.

2012 - 2013 school calendar approved

The 2012 - 2013 school calendar will not be drastically different from the calendar for this school year. Monson told the board that parents and staff have had the opportunity to provide input on the calendar through an online survey. This year, 67 parents and 101 staff members completed the survey.

Although parents and staff agree on many aspects of the survey - which included questions on topics like spring break, snow days, long weekends and parent-teacher conferences - there were two areas of disagreement, Monson said.

Most parents don't feel that Open House and Parent Night should be combined into a single event, while the majority of staff members feel that they should be combined. Parents also said they want parent-teacher conferences scheduled on more than one day or evening, but staff would like to see conferences only offered one day or evening.

The calendar approved by the board favors the requests of parents by keeping the Open House (August 23, 2012) and Parent Night (September 17) two separate evenings. Conferences are scheduled for November 8, 13 and 15 and April 11.

Other business

• The board accepted a three-year quote for lawn care services from Morris Land Care. The offer includes lawn care and underground irrigation management for a total of $70,180, or about $23,400 annually. The district's current contract is for $24,000 a year and only included lawn care services.

• The board appointed Wulf and Board Chairman Kurt Gartland to an ad hoc committee that will remain involved with any further discussion with the Cyrus School Board regarding district reorganization. Both Wulf and Gartland attended an informational meeting on Jan. 9 where a representative from the Department of Education outlined what steps need to be take in order to consolidate a school district. What happens next, however, is in the hands of the Cyrus board.