On Friday, March 11, the DeForest Area School District Board of Education and the DeForest Area Education Association reached an agreement on a contract through June 30, 2012. The agreement was reached during special meetings convened by each group on Friday. The special meetings were necessary to allow consideration of a contract prior to the enactment of a new law substantially altering the relationship between the Board and DAEA. Importantly, both parties sought an agreement that would have no negative impact on local taxes and would in fact further the Board’s effort to reduce the tax levy in the coming year.
The agreement achieved the desired end for both parties, and positions the District in a way that will help deal with the impending cuts to public school revenue. Teachers agreed to significant economic concessions needed by the Board to manage the 2011-2012 budget cuts. Teachers will receive no base pay increases for next year. There will also be no increases for longevity, known as step increases. These measures saved the District nearly $200,000. In addition, the teachers agreed to pay the employee portion of the Wisconsin Retirement System annual contribution. This represents a 5.8% reduction in the gross pay of every staff member. The approximate savings to the District is $700,000. The DAEA also agreed to freeze all other payment for supplemental contracts such as activity advisor, coaching and summer school teaching. The District will continue to provide health and dental insurance for staff and the teachers will pay 10% of the premium costs for either family or single coverage.
Beyond economic concessions, the DAEA agreed to substantially increase the management rights of the Board in order to ensure the Board has the flexibility to adjust operations and structures sufficient to work within a reduced budget. This included the Board’s ability to establish necessary changes in the school calendar or working conditions. It also allows for flexibility in the operation of extra and co-curricular activities. The DAEA also agreed they would not participate in any concerted activities that might be disruptive or contribute to a work stoppage of any kind.
The two groups agreed to extend the ability for staff to retire either by the end of the current year or next year. The deadline for notification to retire for either year was extended to April 15, 2011 instead of January 15 of this year. Vacancies created as a result of attrition and retirement will greatly assist the District with staffing flexibility and increased options to organize program delivery with fewer people.
The contract agreement will benefit both parties by maintaining a structure and operating practices that have been effective for the District in achieving its ends for students. It also assures teachers a meaningful voice in decisions that determine how the District will move forward into the future with very different parameters.
Both parties expressed appreciation for both the content of the agreement and the manner in which it was achieved. The contract represents a shared commitment by both parties to operate in such a way that the District can continue to provide a quality educational program within the resources that can be provided by the state and local taxpayers.