By: Caroline Chastain
Northwest Allen County Schools Board of School Trustees and the Northwest Allen County Educators Association reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement on Sept. 25, outlining more than $1,800 in raises for NACS teachers.
Collective bargaining is a process for teacher unions that dates back to 1973. The process is a familiar one for NACS and NACEA, although this was the first time NACS hosted a public hearing in regard to the tentative collective bargaining agreement, which took place before the board’s meeting on Oct. 14.
The process to reach an agreement begins with an analysis of state funding for the fiscal year, and then salary changes for teachers are dictated respectively. According to Lizette Downey, NACS Chief Communications Officer, this was a relatively smooth year for this process, regardless of the newly implemented public hearing.
Throughout the entire process, the school board and NACEA representatives work closely.
“We really do work together during this process. It’s in our best interest to consider the teachers in this process so that we can compete for talent and so our kids have the best quality teachers we can find,” NACS Superintendent Chris Himsel said.
The three major components of the negotiation are insurance benefits, retirement, and salaries and stipends. One of the newer focuses of this year’s agreement is on continued education for teachers.
“We have been focusing on changing the contract over the years to give an incentive for professional growth and reward teachers for their commitment to the district,” said Jim Walker, one of the teacher union’s chief negotiators.
Among the salary increases for NACS employees is an addition of $245 for continuing professional learning. Teachers with more than 5 years of experience will also be eligible for $273 in stipends.
Himsel said that this stresses NACS’s desire to employ only the most experienced and expert staff, to provide its students with the highest quality of education.
Coincidingly, teachers are now offered a stipend of $800 for earning a National Board Certification. According to Himsel, very few NACS teachers are currently Board certified, so this incentive has been put in place to encourage more teachers to work towards one.
With this agreement reached, NACS teachers will receive a minimum base salary of $41,250 this school year. Teachers with a bachelor’s degree are eligible for a maximum base salary of $66,000, and those with a master’s degree, a maximum base salary of $70,125.
Additional potential stipends are available for performance based on teacher’s annual reviews. Reviews with indication of “ineffective” or “needs improvement” are not eligible for raises, while those receiving “effective” or “highly effective” can earn up to $1,007 of additions to their salary.
NACS teachers are also seeing a raise in their pay checks by $842 because the general assembly recently reduced the amount school districts are required to pay into teachers’ state retirement funds.
Five NACS employees were contacted to comment on the raises, and none wanted to discuss the topic.
With all of these changes implemented in this year’s NACS and NACEA tentative collective bargaining agreement, teachers are experiencing a $1,849 minimum increase in their base salary. Those already at the maximum base salary will receive these increases as stipends.
NACEA President Steve Driver shared that these changes are in an effort to both reward and retain the best teachers.
“Essentially these changes make us a better school system and help our students because of how it rewards our teachers to work to their fullest,” Driver said.