July 22, 2015

Principals and school board agree

By Jarann Johnson
The negotiation table is an uncomfortable place. Opposing parties come to the table hoping for a mutual agreement, but usually one party leaves disappointed and the process turns into a bit of a struggle.
Before last week’s special school board meeting, both sides of the negotiation table were on the disappointed side. The principals rejected an earlier contract offer from the school board and the board was getting anxious about giving up too much during negotiations.
Last Tuesday evening a special school board meeting was held to attempt reaching an agreement. The special meeting started with Beulah School Board President Ruth Julson officially beginning the meeting and fellow School Board Member Jen Steffen joining via teleconference.
At the start of meeting there were no principals present, just school board members. Julson stated the purpose of the special meeting was to clarify what percentage increase the principals were being offered.
“There was some confusion as to the increase that was being offered to the principals – if it was a three percent salary increase or three percent total compensation and that’s what we are here to clarify before we meet with principals,” Julson said.
School Board Member Dwight Hatzenbuhler said he wouldn’t have voted for a total compensation increase and told the board he thought he was voting for a salary increase.
“I assumed we were talking three percent salary, because we want to keep it competitive with the teachers, and I wouldn’t have agreed to three percent total compensation. So I wanted that first proposal that was sent, that’s the one I assumed,” Hatzenbuhler said.
Fellow School Board Member Jordan Staloch agreed with Hatzenbuhler and said he believed his vote was for a salary increase, not a total compensation increase.
Stacee McLaughlin added her belief on the purpose of her vote. McLaughlin said she thought her vote gave the principals an offer for more than what the teachers agreed to during negotiation.
“I thought that, by bringing them (the principals) to three percent, we had explained to them that comparing apples to apples they were getting more than the teachers were, that is what I thought,” McLaughlin said.
After McLaughlin explained what she believed her vote was for, Steffen offered another differing opinion on what exactly the board’s offer constituted.
“My understanding was that the principals were not happy with the increase they were offered because  they thought it was less than teachers were offered, but when Carrie [Miller, the business manager] plays it out – the total compensation got them up,” Steffen said. “I’m not sure exactly what the average teacher increase turned out to be, 3-point-something, but their three-point-whatever was total compensation for everything. My understanding was we were going to figure out total compensation for the principals.”
The board then went into a discussion clarifying what they were voting on and also discussed the teachers’ total compensation. The total compensation numbers given at the meeting for teachers reported a deal equaling 3.8 percent of total compensation. The 3.8 percent total compensation also included a $1,000 increase for all teachers.
After discussing what the teachers negotiation process resulted in, the board agreed on a motion to present the principals an offer with a three percent salary increase, which the board hoped would reach a total compensation value close to or mirroring the teachers’ increase. After agreeing on the motion the board moved for a short recess.

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