School Board Ratifies New MEA Contract

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By Matt Geiger

The Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District Board of Education on Monday night approved a new contract for fulltime teachers. The deal, which was hammered out amidst the fallout from Act 10 and a cloud of lingering uncertainty about the state of collective bargaining for public employees, covers the 2013-2014 year.

The Middleton Education Association (MEA) teachers’ union ratified the contract on Valentine’s Day. Following the school board’s vote, MEA president Chris Bauman said she was “proud” the two sides came to an agreement.

Under the new deal, salary increases will be determined at the school board’s discretion, after the district receives pertinent information about state aid levels.

Teachers who take part in a Health Risk Assessment will maintain their current 12 percent contribution toward their annual health insurance premiums. Those not completing the assessment will contribute 15 percent.

Gone from the new deal is Fair Share, so the district will no longer automatically withdraw union dues from all teachers’ paychecks. While emails show the union initially fought hard to maintain Fair Share, the contract approved by the school board makes it clear teachers may opt out of – and stop funding – union activities.

According to the district, the contract includes calendar changes and less frequent, but full-day, professional development days for staff.

Back to School Night – a major source of disagreement between the two sides a few years ago - will be offered at all buildings at the beginning of the school year rather than the previous elementary “orientation sessions” that were always held on the first day of the school year.

Procedures regarding the entering of graded or missing assignments and assessments into Infinite Campus, the district’s online information hub, were also altered.

Changes to the special education areas of the contract will shift how payment is made for Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and caseload assignments.

The voluntary early retirement benefit was continued, but with fewer options than the current 2012-13 contract.

The standard for payment of the annual salary for staff will be 20 payrolls (September - June). However, staff will be able to voluntarily elect to receive their annual pay over 24 payrolls, as is the district’s current practice.

Due to the implementation of Wisconsin’s Educator Effectiveness changes, some adjustments were also made to the district’s evaluation process for staff members.

The contract’s exact impact on teachers' total compensation packages will become available once the school board votes later this year on what raises, if any, to give.

Following the school board’s ratification of the deal, MEA president Chris Bauman thanked the school board in an email.

“On behalf of the MEA bargaining team and every teacher in the District, I want to thank you for approving the Master Contract last night,” Bauman wrote. “A special thank you [to] those who sat on the negotiating team.  I know it meant time away from your families and other obligations, but I believe all of our work was worth it.”

Bauman wrote that the MEA negotiating team is “thrilled that we were able to reach an agreement given all of the uncertainties with the legal process surrounding Act 10.”

Superintendent Don Johnson said “the overall tenor of the talks” was “respectful and productive.” He called the new contract “a foundation that will allow the district to move forward in a positive environment to support students, staff, parents and the community at-large.”

“I extend my appreciation and thanks to the MEA negotiating team for their role [in] dealing with some difficult issues,” Johnson said. “It is also important to recognize all faculty for their role in making this an outstanding district for our kids.”

 

 

 

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