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New contract brings time for healing

There was no fanfare Thursday night when a new contract was approved by the North Harrison Community School Corp. Board of Trustees. In fact, it was a most somber occasion.
Not that I was expecting fireworks, victor’s songs or other ceremonial rituals, but I thought there might be some sign of relief or appreciation.
Perhaps it’s because many, if any, see no victor in this standoff that lasted nearly seven years.
On one side, there are the teachers who have been working on a contract that expired at the end of the 2003-04 school year. They have endured cost-of-living increases and have seen their portion of premiums for health insurance rise.
The flip side is the school board. There have been 13 different people serve on the five-member board since the previous contract expired. They all have taken seriously their oath of office and, given the information they had at the time, they have done what they believed to be in the best interest of the school corporation and the taxpayers.
With that, there is reason to celebrate. It requires that both sides step back and take a look at the larger picture.
Teachers, by the end of February, you will receive a stipend, based on your salary, of 1 percent for school years 2004-05 through 2008-09 and 2 percent for last school year and this one. That’s money in the bank that you didn’t have, on top of the annual increments in pay built into the master contract.
No one will deny that you’re not worth more than you’re currently making or that the stipend doesn’t come close to the cost-of-living increases you’ve faced. And we all know that many teachers spend money out of their own pockets to enhance their students’ education.
Everyone reading this can probably name at least one teacher who had a major impact on their life. And like with so many other instances, we rarely, if ever, take the time to let someone know of the positive impact they’ve had on us.
There is hardly a profession that isn’t struggling to make it in this new economic world. And hundreds of thousands have found themselves in an unemployment line, with many of those once employed people dealing with foreclosure and struggling to make ends meet.
You are employed, including many of those who were part of the reduction in force a few years ago who have been called back. Hopefully, you are doing what you love.
School trustees, you found a way to give financially to those employed to teach our future generations. You have tried to look into the future that now too often includes government cutbacks to hopefully make a decision that won’t have a negative impact later by having to lay off teachers. There are many variables that are out of your control in determining the income for the school corporation.
You’re an easy target for placing blame, yet it’s often forgotten that you’re also taxpayers in this community and that you, too, are impacted by your decisions. Many of the 13 school trustees since the 2003-04 school year have had spouses or other family members who are employed by this school corporation.
Yet, you chose to serve as an elected official. You knew you would be faced with the tough decisions. You are to serve as the voice of the taxpayers. (Good luck with that one!)
So, let’s be pleased that this impasse is behind us. The longer it prevailed, the more it divided the community. Words are powerful and can cause deep wounds, and this was becoming quite evident as both sides stood their ground.
And, now that a new contract has been signed, and neither side may believe it is victorious, this compromise allows us to move forward.
It’s time for all involved to be gracious for the outcome and to put aside any ill feelings.
Soon enough work will begin on the next contract. Let it be with open hearts and open minds with the past serving only as a reminder of what shouldn’t occur.
This is truly a community full of wonderful, giving people. I believe we all will come together for the greater good: that of providing the best education for our children who are tomorrow’s leaders.