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School Board, teachers to vote on tentative contract agreement

The impasse in Grand Forks teacher contract negotiations could be resolved this week if teachers and the School Board approve a tentative agreement reached July 17 by their respective negotiating teams.

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The impasse in Grand Forks teacher contract negotiations could be resolved this week if teachers and the School Board approve a tentative agreement reached July 17 by their respective negotiating teams.

The president of the Grand Forks Education Association, Tom Young, has called a 5 p.m. meeting on Monday for the membership to discuss the agreement and vote on its ratification.

The full School Board meets at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to ratify, or reject, the agreement.

Both groups must ratify it in order for it to go into effect.

Doug Carpenter, president of the Grand Forks School Board, said he is "very confident the board will ratify the agreement."


Carpenter expects that board members at Wednesday's meeting will have questions, especially concerning the agreement's impact on the school district's finances, he said.

He was one of four members on the board's team that negotiated with representatives of the teachers union over the past few months.

"I'm optimistic that both parties will ratify the agreement," Carpenter told the Herald on Thursday.

The agreement "is overall good," he said. "It's probably more money than I would have anticipated, maybe liked, (but) that's negotiations."

Reaching a tentative agreement on a one-year contract "is a really important step," Young said. "(It's important) that we were able to work within the boundaries of the (fact-finding commission's) recommendation, to mutually work towards a negotiated agreement ... rather than have a solution imposed by an exterior party. It's best if we can handle that, find a solution, at our own negotiating table."

At the July 17 meeting, teacher and board negotiating teams discussed the recommendations, issued July 7 by a third party, the North Dakota Education Fact Finding Commission, to resolve the impasse in contract negotiations which was declared in May.

The impasse came about when neither side was willing to move from its position. The School Board had proposed a two-year salary freeze. The teachers' negotiating team had proposed a 5 percent salary increase for the 2017-18 school year and a 3 percent increase for 2018-19.

The fact-finding commission recommended that one-year, rather than the usual two-year, contracts be issued for the 2017-18 school year.


It further recommended that "lane" increases, but not "step" increases, be allowed, according to the teacher salary schedule. Lanes refer to additional approved credits teachers earn through continuing education. Steps refer to the number of years a teacher has been teaching.

The commission also recommended a $1,000 annual payment for each returning full-time teacher.

The agreement reached July 17 calls for one-year contracts and reinstates "step" increases, according to the current teacher salary schedule, but no additional increase. It also calls for a $500 payment for teachers who are at the top of the salary schedule.

It also affirms the commission's recommendation to form committees to study two other issues related to elementary teachers' preparation time and maternity leave.

This week, if one or both groups do not approve the tentative contract agreement, they would still be at impasse.

"We would have to go into executive session to decide what, if anything, could be done," Carpenter said. "The Fact Finding Commission would go ahead with publication of its report."

The commission's July 7 report would be published in the Herald and would include a statement by the commission's chairman, Dean Rummel of Dickinson, explaining why negotiations failed and who, in his opinion, compromised the possibility for agreement.

The School Board meets at the Mark Sanford Education Center, 2400 47th Ave. S.

Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at pknudson@gfherald.com or (701) 780-1107.
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