A-J Teachers Reach New Contract Deal

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By WSIL Manager

UPDATED 9:30 p.m. Friday, May 2, 2014

UNION COUNTY -- Anna-Jonesboro High School had been in contract talks with its teachers since last June. The two sides were far apart as the district tried to cut costs and erase a deficit. They just finalized a contract this week, two months after narrowly avoiding a strike.

It wasn't easy. At times, both sides weren't sure they'd ever agree. Thanks to a federal mediator and a lot of compromises, they finalized the contract Wednesday. It's only for this school year; in a matter of weeks, they'll be back at it again.

"I know that we heard each other loud and clear. I know for the first time I feel like we're all on the same page," Board Spokesperson John Hughey explained. 

The deal includes a 1 percent pay increase for all teachers. The district also agrees to cover 10 percent more of employee health insurance premiums, and every new teacher must pay $25 each check to their 403b retirement plan.

"Instead of working to age 67, it may allow you to retire who knows how many years earlier," said Hughey.

As for the two-tier salary plan, the biggest point of contention in the talks, Hughey says the two sides agreed to a transitional salary approach instead.

"We're the only district south of I-80 that has anything like this for their certified staff," he added.

New hires will now work 35 years to get to the top tier of pay; ten years longer than they currently do. The district desperately needs those savings.

"This is not just today. We're thinking down the road and the viability of this district for the future," urged Hughey.

Parents were happy to hear the good news Friday.

"There was a time when we thought there was gonna be a strike and we weren't sure you know what was gonna happen with kids trying to graduate," Pamela Hunter-Reach admitted.

"It's a big concern and also a big relief at the same time. For the future negotiating, the future of next year, hopefully that all will turn out well," said April Faris.

Talks for the upcoming school year will start again in June, after administrators learn how much money they can count on from the state.

Both sides are optimistic about the next negotiations, since they've developed a good starting point with the latest contract.  They're not sure how much of a deficit to expect in state funding. So they may have to find more ways to cut the costs. The goal is to have a new agreement by the fall.

ORIGINAL STORY

UNION CO. - After 11 months of negotiations there's a new contract at Anna Jonesboro High School. The final agreement went into effect Wednesday.

It gives all educators a one percent pay increase, and raise health insurance subsidies by 10 percent. Board Spokesperson John Hughey says both sides compromised, and never gave up on negotiations.

"We never did completely close the channels of communication and those did remain open, and I applaud the efforts of the association not to quit," said Hughey .

  Teachers and school board members will begin negotiating a contract for next school year at the end of this month.

 

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