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New teachers' contract approved

Just in time for Christmas, the school board last week unanimously OK'd a one-year contract for the district's 223 teachers, most of whom work full-time.

"We are pleased to have reached an agreement," said Personnel Director Donna Hill. "We value our teachers and feel that the increase, although modest in comparison to other years, is a fair settlement given our current financial realities."

The just-approved contract gives teaches a 1.65% pay hike and an overall increase of 3.36%.

Teachers also earn more when they further their schooling and as they gain years of on-the-job experience. Those factors boost the overall teachers' compensation package for 2010-11 to 3.86%.

The new contract will lead to lump-sum retroactive payments to cover the start of the 2010-11 school year. The payments will likely be made by late January, Hill said.

Other highlights from the new contract include:

  • While the district will pay more money overall, toward the teachers' medical and dental insurance, $3,289,8904 (2009-10) vs. $3,387,895 (2010-11), teachers will pick up a greater percentage of that coverage: Instead of paying 5% of health-care costs, teachers will now be responsible for 8%, with the district picking up the other 92%.
  • A new teacher with a bachelor's degree and no experience will have a starting pay at $35,337.
  • A teacher with 15 years experience and the highest level of a master's degree could earn $66,460 a year.
  • The average annual River Falls teacher salary is now $56,141.
  • Reduced compensation for summer school instruction. Those teaching enrichment classes will earn 70% of their normal daily rate of pay. Those teaching basic (remedial) classes will earn either 85% of their normal daily rate of pay or what their daily rate of pay was a year ago.
  • After-school meeting compensation will now be 75% of the daily rate of pay.

    The last two compensatory items are said to be comparable to those of other school districts.

This is the second straight year that River Falls teachers and the district have settled on a one-year deal.

In the past, contracts were for two years, though because negotiations dragged on, they were often settled a year or more late.

Negotiations for this latest contract started in May and lasted six months.

Hill said the recent one-year contracts are not a new strategy by either side, but have just worked out that way.

She said the shorter contract length probably reflects not only the economic downtown, but also the state's looming budget deficit, plus having a new governor and elected Legislature.

"Under the circumstances, it's harder to plan very far ahead," she said.