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Third time’s a charm: Lanesville board, teachers reach contract agreement

A contract dispute that had been ongoing since 2004 was settled earlier this month between the Lanesville Community School Corp. Board of Trustees and the Lanesville Education Association.
Lanesville teachers have been without a new contract since the 2004-2005 school year. In accordance with state law, the school board has continued to pay salaries and insurance premiums agreed to under the last contract.
Under the agreement reached on March 6, teachers will receive a retroactive 1.5 percent raise for the 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 school years and a two-percent raise for this school year. In addition, the new contract changed the school corporations share on insurance to 90 percent for single coverage and 75 percent for family.
‘I think it was a very fair settlement for all,’ Veronica Hobbs, LEA president, said Monday, adding it was the best under the given circumstances.
Hobbs said the LEA had approved the new contract in a unanimous vote.
The new contract came as a result of a third mediation session on March 6 with state-appointed fact finder Vicki Martin. The LEA and school board had two previous mediation sessions, one in 2005 and another in 2006. Martin released a nonbinding report last November with her recommendations for a settlement between the two parties.
Hobbs said Martin was extremely helpful in helping the two parties reach a decision.
‘It was more of a collaborative effort,’ Hobbs said, adding that she believed the new contract was a step in the right direction.
Supt. Dr. Phil Partenheimer said Monday the meeting with Martin was ‘extremely beneficial.’
He said, ‘I think both parties gave a lot to reach an agreement.’
The school board went one step further last week and voted unanimously to extend the retroactive pay raises and benefits to noncertified personnel employed by the school system.
‘I think it is important to keep our employees as equal as we can,’ Donnie Hussung, president of the board, said during their meeting on March 20.
Hussung also took time to publicly thank the LEA.
‘We had a tough financial situation,’ Hussung said. ‘They really stepped forward and made some major concessions.’
Both parties will have to negotiate again for a contract for the 2007-2008 school year or continue to work off the present contract.
Partenheimer said Monday despite reaching a contract agreement, the school system is still in a tough financial situation.
Over the past few years, Lanesville has been decreasing in enrollment which has taken a toll on the general budget, which also pays wages and benefits. The situation has made it difficult for the school board to reach an agreement with its teachers.
Lanesville, which has been named an exemplary school system by the state and a Best-Buy school by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, has raised its test scores sharply since the implementation of a balanced calendar system in 2004.
Student achievement, Partenheimer said, is something he does not want to lose.
Partenheimer said he is looking at alternatives to keep the budget balanced and still keep student achievement at that high level.
Small cuts in staffing are being considered, but Partenheimer added that is an alternative neither he nor the board wants to see happen.
‘By cutting people, we would lose that ability to increase student achievement, and I don’t want to do that,’ he said.
Partenheimer said he plans to make a full presentation on the school system’s alternatives at the next board meeting on April 17.