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Everyone signed up for school year

Oak Harbor School District board of directors voted to ratify agreements with both the teacher and administrator unions to cover the current school year at its regularly scheduled meeting Monday night.

While the administrators’ agreement, which covers principals, assistant principals and academic department directors, was negotiated smoothly, the teachers’ agreement was hammered out over a period of months and was not accepted by both sides until after the start of the current school year.

One added benefit in both agreements is the district’s supplementation of health care insurance premiums for teachers and administrators. The district is giving each teacher and administrator the same amount, which equals $20 per full-time staff member this year, $25 next year and $30 the year after.

“We had a rather long negotiation process,” Rick Schulte, superintendent of schools, said of the agreement with Oak Harbor Education Association.

“The district and the association realized schools are in a difficult position now as far as funding,” Schulte said.

However, Peter Szalai, co-president of the teachers’ association, said Tuesday that the district has money to offer valuable benefits to the administrators, represented by Oak Harbor Building Administrators’ Association, yet communicated that it could not offer anything more to teachers. Szalai said he had reviewed the administrators’ agreement.

Additionally, Szalai said, any salary raise the teachers received has been eaten up by the rising costs of health care.

“As teacher’s opened their October 1 paychecks,” Szalai said, “they’ve discovered that the increased premium has wiped out any gains of increased salary.”

This affects “everyone,” Szalai said, from the unmarried teacher with no dependents, to teachers with families. As an example, Szalai said that a teacher covering self, spouse and children with Blue Cross pays $630 per month in premiums. Teachers can opt for a cheaper health plan, Group Health, at a cost of $220 per month, but that plan has a “high deductible,” Szalai said.

Szalai said the teachers’ union had voted by 84 percent to ratify the new contract, recognizing that the district has taken strides toward local responsibility to providing teachers with benefits, as opposed to relying solely on state and federal funding.

Meanwhile, a review of the administrators’ agreement shows a salary range of the low of $67,521 for a new middle school assistant principal to a high of $94,830 for a high school principal with several years’ experience in the position. This scale, Szalai said, indicates that the district has money to reward and retain quality administrative staff, and it should offer something similar for teachers.

Particularly at issue for the teachers’ association, Szalai said, is the contract language that provides $3,300 per administrator per year for professional growth and improvement, as well as four paid days to use for improving skills. Additionally administrators receive a one percent salary raise for successful completion of every 12 college credits.

“We get none of that,” Szalai said.

However, Cynthia Shelton, a department director at the high school and co-president of the OHBAA, says that the administrators’ professional growth money often goes right back to teachers.

“I turn around and give it to teachers a lot,” Shelton said. “I think a lot of administrators do.”

Meanwhile, Szalai is poised to lead the teachers’ association membership to further negotiate with the district on benefits.

“It is our priority this year to educate our membership, the district and the community,” Szalai said. “General compensation remains a priority locally and statewide.”

You can reach News-Times reporter Christine Smith at csmith@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611

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