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Milton teachers take action

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Stacy Vogel
November 17, 2009
— The Milton teachers union has started job actions to show its dissatisfaction with contract negotiations with the Milton School District.

The teachers are walking into school together at their assigned start time, wearing yellow shirts on Wednesdays and sending representatives to Milton School Board meetings, said Shelly Kress, Milton Education Association president.


They also handed out brochures to parents attending parent-teacher conferences at the high school last week.


The union started the job actions because "we just want to ensure that Milton continues to provide the best education for all of its students and that we're able to attract and retain the best teachers," Kress said.


Teacher contracts expired July 1. The district filed for mediation in June after realizing the two sides weren't going to agree on their own, Superintendent Bernie Nikolay said at the time.


The teachers weren't happy with an offer the district made at the most recent mediation session Oct. 22, Kress said.


"We wanted to work toward a settlement with the board; however, we felt that the board did not work toward middle ground," she said. "Their offer was very punitive."


The union has made a counter-offer that the district's negotiations committee will discuss today, Nikolay said.


It is up to the mediator to decide if the two sides should go to the next step, arbitration. Nikolay hopes that won't happen, he said.


"Progress has been slow, but I'm still hopeful that we will reach an agreement," he said.


Milton has a history of contentious contract negotiations. Teachers took similar job actions in the last two negotiation periods.


The two sides didn't reach an agreement on a 2007-09 contract until September 2008, 15 months after the previous contract expired. The 2005-07 contract was settled 19 months after the previous one expired and eight months after the district imposed a qualified economic offer, a state-regulated option that allowed a district to raise salary and benefit packages 3.8 percent per year after negotiations failed to reach a settlement.


The state removed the QEO as part of its 2009-11 budget package. The budget also changed state law so that arbitrators are no longer instructed to give greatest weight to local economic conditions and revenue caps in deciding contract cases.


Milton administrators turn down raise

The Milton School District already knows it will face a tight budget in 2010-11.


So the district's 13 administrators voted unanimously to forgo a pay raise next year to help balance the budget, Superintendent Bernie Nikolay said.


"We want to do our part and put our money where our mouth is," Nikolay said.


The district administrative team includes building principals and central office administrators.


The district took some criticism at its annual meeting in August for giving administrators a 4.3 percent raise in salary and benefits this year. The district responded that it always gives administrators the same raises teachers received in the previous year.


Still, the administrators understand the public's concern and agreed a wage freeze next year is appropriate, Nikolay said.


The district has not reached a contract settlement with the teachers, so it's still unknown what increase, if any, teachers will receive this year or next.


When asked if an administrative wage freeze was a way to pressure the teachers into accepting a freeze or smaller increase, Nikolay said:


"We're leading by example. We're asking others to sacrifice, and we're leading the way."



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