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Board may change teachers' contract



June 29, 2011 | 07:15 AM
Walworth — Under a new proposal, if there are layoffs at Big Foot High School, it won't necessarily affect the newest teacher.

Performance evaluations, academic credentials and National Board Certifications also will be considered when cuts are needed. A new evaluation model also may be used to provide economic incentives to distinguished teachers.

During the Big Foot School Board's June meeting, the district's administration and members of the Teacher's Union discussed proposed changes to the teacher's contract and a new evaluation model.

School Board President Susan Pruessing said before voting, the board needs time to digest the new contract, which she first saw during the June 20 meeting.

"There is going to be no action tonight, but don't take that as a negative," Pruessing said. "Collectively you came together. You all worked really hard and that shows a great team effort."

School Board Treasurer Kim Arntz was impressed by the proposal and said other districts are going to look at this contract as a way to improve their schools.

"They are going to come to this and say this is a Big Foot model," Arntz said.

During the meeting, the administration and union presented different potential changes to the contract which includes the creation of a professional work day, changes to retirement benefits, pay incentives for head coaches that reach postseason play and a new evaluation system (See page B2 for a story on the evaluation system and how it affects teacher layoffs.)

Retirement benefits

Teachers who plan to retire up to the 2030-31 school year will retain their current benefits, but, in retirement, will need to pay the same for their benefits as an active employee. A teacher who retires by 2030-31, and has worked for 30 years, can earn up to eight years of retirement benefits.

Teachers who plan to retire after the 2030-31 school year, can receive retirement benefits for a maximum of six years — which occurs after 30 years of teaching — or can receive a $1,200 annual payout from the district for up to five years. The teacher receives that money immediately, and it can be paid out in cash or placed in a tax-sheltered account.

New teachers can receive retirement benefits for a maximum of four years — which requires 30 years of service — or can receive the $1,200 annual payout from the district for up to five years.

Teacher's Union President Michael Manghera said new teachers won't immediately need to decide whether to take the payout or receive retirement benefits.

"It's a positive we were able to keep a retirement package in some fashion. It is still in a relatively valuable form," Manghera said.

Pay incentives

District Administrator Dorothy Kaufmann and Manghera said the union and administration are working on creating pay incentives for the school's best teachers.

"We wanted it tied to professional development and an increase in student achievement," Kaufmann said.

According to documents provided to the board, incentive pay will be in amounts between $350 and $750.

"I think incentives are great for employees because you push to get it," Pruessing said.

Manghera said the two groups are still negotiating the incentive pay and doesn't expect it to take effect this year.

A professional work day

Another new proposal provides teachers with more flexibility during the work day. In the previous contracts, teachers had to be at the school from 7:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.

During a professional work day, teachers can leave the building during time they aren't assigned to a classroom.

"The staff is giving up a lot with the new governor's budget," Big Foot Assistant Principal Brian Lawton said. "This makes their day feel a little better. It gives them more freedom in their work day, but that doesn't mean they work less."

Teachers also will be able to earn back sick days by substitute teaching during their preparation time. For every two periods a teacher substitute teaches, they will earn one period of sick time.

"The district wins by having two periods of subbing and are only giving back one period of sick time," Lawton said. "We also have a certified teacher subbing rather than a normal, uncertified substitute teacher."

Manghera said teachers will still have the option to be paid for substitute teaching during preparation periods.

Lawton said teachers who use all their sick days after taking a medical leave or because they are caring for young children may take advantage of the new proposal.

"It won't affect the majority of the staff," Lawton said. "But for that small number of people it means a lot. Unpaid sick time places stress on a family and it will help them in that situation."

Lawton said a teacher couldn't finish the year with more sick time than when they started it.

Post-season pay for coaches

Another proposal provides pay bonuses for coaches who reach post season play. Manghera said this isn't to reward coaches for advancing their team, but instead recognizes that post season play extends their season and workload.

Each coach would receive a 0.3 percent increase for each round he or she advances to beyond sectional competition, Manghera said. The maximum increase is 1.2 percent, which is the increase teachers received in a salary and benefit increase last year.

"We wanted it tied together to make it equitable," Manghera said. "It sends the wrong message if athletics is paid more than academics."

Manghera said he feels the proposal for a new contract is the best the Teacher's Union could do considering the changes to the collective bargaining law.

"I think under all the circumstances, it was really the best we could have done," Manghera said.

Manghera said he doesn't anticipate the new contract will attract new teachers, who he said are probably just eager to find any work.

"It may be the thing that ends up keeping them here, but I don't think it was be what attracts them," he said.

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