Kenai Peninsula educators have voted to ratify a new contract.
Members of the Kenai Peninsula Education Association and the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association, in mail-in balloting tabulated over the weekend, voted to accept the agreement reached in bargaining sessions with the school district last month.
“We felt that all groups involved, the district and the associations, had worked out the best possible agreement that met all of our needs,” said KPEA President Cathy Carrow. “Our vote indicates membership agreed with us that this contract most accurately meets the needs of all parties involved.”
The contract now goes to the school board for approval. The board is scheduled to take it up during a work session today at 4:45 p.m. at the Borough Administration Building in Soldotna. The board will then vote on the contract at its 7 p.m. meeting. The district administration has recommended the contracts be approved.
The three-year contract includes a 3.5 percent pay raise this year, a 2.5 percent increase next year and a 2 percent raise in the final year.
Other changes include a provision allowing accumulated sick leave to be used as bereavement leave, allowing members to cash in three of four personal days per year, some flexibility in staff arrival and departure times and clarification of contract language regarding things such as initial placement on the salary schedule.
Also, support staff members who work less than a four-hour day typically food service workers will now receive personal leave.
Carrow characterized KPEA and KPESA support for the new contract as “overwhelming.”
“We really feel that this vote does validate what the (negotiating) team believed was a fair contract and represents the interests of both teaching staff and classified staff, and of the district,” Carrow said.
“Many of the changes we made to the language of the contract are changes that I consider make the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District more employee-friendly. ... All these things are really important to membership. They may not sound that way to the general public, but, boy, we sure do appreciate them.”
The new contract was negotiated using Interest Based Bargaining, and Carrow said the process led to the more employee-friendly agreement.
“The way the process worked, we were able to sit down, talk about a problem, talk about the various groups’ interests, and we were able to problem-solve, and look for a solution that met everyone’s needs,” Carrow said.
The process worked so well that teachers and support staff will continue to work with the district in committees through the duration of the contract, Carrow said.
“The biggest thing coming out of this contract for me was the notion that we worked together with the district. We reestablished some working relationships, some positive relationships with the district. Even though the contract is completed, we will move forward with the opportunity to work with the district through committees, which I think is really important. ... The people who are involved with students on a daily basis have a voice at the table.”
KPEA and KPESA collectively represent approximately 1,100 school district employees.
Clarion reporter Phil Hermanek contributed to this report.
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