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SH teachers ratify agreement

After working more than a year without a contract, teachers in the South Harrison Community School Corp. voted Monday to ratify a tentative contract agreement for the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 school years.
This tentative agreement will provide the teachers with a 5.25 percent pay increase for the two-year period, which almost matches the state average of 5.30 percent.
The contract proposal was worked out last week during meetings between school system representatives and leaders of the South Harrison Education Association (SHEA), which represents about 190 teachers in the school corporation.
The proposal was almost the same contract the teachers asked for during mediation talks May 30, the last day of the 2001-2002 school year.
Final approval of the agreement is expected Sept. 17 when the school board will vote on the proposed contract, during a meeting which had been previously scheduled to adopting this year’s school budget.
Evelyn Bell, SHEA president, and Carol Mooney, Indiana State Teacher’s Association UniServ Director, declined to comment on the teachers’ vote.
South Harrison teachers had worked without a contract since August 2001.
Chuck Rubright, chief negotiator for the school system, said the contract proposal is a two-year agreement that includes a two-percent pay increase for 2001-2002 and an increase in the corporation’s contribution to the teachers’ health insurance, which will bring the school system’s contribution up to the same ratio as last year.
For 2002-2003, the teachers will receive a 3.25-percent pay increase and the same funding ratio for health insurance.
Rubright said the state average for teacher raises has been about 5.3 percent over two-year periods, and this contract will be close to that amount, giving the teachers in South Harrison a pay increase of 5.25 percent over the two years.
“Last May, when the school board and teachers met to discuss the contract, the board could not agree to the two-year contract proposed by the teachers because the schools’ budget figures were not final at that time,” Rubright said. “Since then, some things have changed and we were able to make this offer.”
He said, since May, four things had happened which allowed the board to be able to offer the teachers a contract they could agree to.
The first was when the Indiana General Assembly met in special session and funding for school budgets for the 2002-2003 school year was secured. “No money was taken away from the schools,” Rubright said.
Carolyn Wallace, director of business operations for the school system, said, “We were now assured of what our funding would be and provisions were put in place which allows us to cover a budget cut in one area with funds from another account or area.”
The second thing was no increase in the cost of health insurance premiums paid by the school system.
Wallace said health insurance premiums were frozen this year. In 2001-2002, the South Harrison school system experienced a 10 percent increase in the premiums they pay, which cost the school system about $56,000 for teachers alone and about $80,000 for all employees.
“Another thing that allowed us to offer this contract was teacher turnover,” Rubright said. “Several teachers either retired or left the school system since last year, freeing up some funds.”
Wallace said teacher turnover is normal due to retirements and job changes, and the teachers who left were replaced with teachers at lower pay scales.
The fourth factor was an increase in student enrollment. “The school system has about 20 new students this year, which will increase the amount of funding the school will receive,” Wallace said. “The official student count, which is reported to the state, will be taken Friday, Sept. 13.”
Rubright and Wallace were unable to give exact numbers but estimated the school system would receive about $150,000 more this year than last year.
“Throughout this contract negotiation process, the teachers have done their jobs and acted as total professionals,” Wallace said. “A final agreement on this contract will be a relief for both sides.”