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Janesville School Board OKs teacher contract

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
September 22, 2010
— In an unusually close 5-4 vote, the Janesville School Board on Tuesday approved a four-year work contract with the teachers union.

The vote came after more than an hour of debate at the board table, the second lengthy, anguish-tinged discussion in two weeks.


The union ratified the contract last week. After the meeting, the union announced that 99 percent of its members had voted to ratify.


About 30 teachers attended the meeting, and some of them began counting votes after Karl Dommershausen, who previously seemed to be leaning in favor, said he would vote against it.


Like most if not all of the board, Dommershausen has concerns about how much money the contract will cost.


Dommershausen especially didn’t like provisions that make future costs uncertain.


One of those provisions will allow the teachers to reopen negotiations to increase their pay in 2011-12 and 2012-13 if the consumer price index rises above 2.5 percent.


Dommershausen also worried about the cost of insurance, which could—and probably will—rise while teachers continue to pay the same premiums.


Kevin Murray took Dommershausen to task, saying that Dommershausen had told him he would vote for the contract.


Murray asked whether he could ever rely on Dommershausen to give a straight answer again.


Board President Bill Sodemann tapped his gavel at that point and said members should not question each other’s integrity.


Sodemann again came out strongly in opposition to the contract.


He brought a basketful of figures to back up his argument, including the no-longer-used salary-plus-benefits analysis known as a QEO.


A QEO shows increases of 2.51 percent last year, 5.71 percent this year, 5.14 percent in the third year and 4.86 percent in the fourth year, Sodemann said, and that’s higher than in many years when economic conditions were better.


Send the contract back to the negotiating table, Sodemann and Dommershausen urged.


The other “no” votes were DuWayne Severson and Peter Severson.


DuWayne Severson suggested that Tuesday’s vote should spur people on either side of the issue to consider running for school board.


Peggy Sheridan said the board could have set limits for its negotiators. Instead, the board gave the negotiating team the authority to get it done, she said.


But Sodemann said he couldn’t recall any board member ever calling for the kinds of pay increases that became part of the final deal.


The contract covers four years, starting in 2009-10. Teachers get no additional pay for that year.


The average teacher salary increase will be 3.25 percent starting Aug. 28. Teachers get another 0.5 percent increase Jan. 24, 2011.


Pay increases continue in the following two school years, with the minimum increase 1.5 percent in 2011-12 and 2 percent in 2012-13.


In the end, at least some were hoping to put the debate behind them and move forward.


“After this, we tackle the next issue,” Sodemann said. “Kevin,” he said to Murray, “we shake hands and go on.”


Lori Stottler was of similar mind: “I just hope we put this thing to bed and really start looking at the big-picture vision.”


Union President Dave Parr said after the meeting that the four-year deal will come with expectations of higher student performance, something that teachers know and expect.


“This is a contract that’s going to mend fences,” Parr said.



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