BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison teacher’s union and the school district reached a new tentative pay contract agreement in less than four hours of negotiations Monday night.
Initial proposals were presented at 4 p.m. and after a short break, the Fort Madison Education Association met with district Superintendent Dr. Erin Slater, Board President Dianne Hope, board member Josh Wykert and attorney Emily Ellingson and reached a settlement the same night.
The teacher’s union proposed an $800 increase on the base pay scale with incremental step movements along teacher tenure and education. They also asked for an increase in the health insurance benefit, which the district isn’t required to negotiate under the 2017 Iowa Code Chapter 20 overhaul.
The district countered with a $394 base increase with no step movement.
The two proposals were about $300,000 off, but the two sides quickly came around on a compromise where the district would pay $500 on the base with step movement, which represents a 2.7% increase. The district also agreed to add $138 to the stipend teachers receive toward health care coverage through Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.
“We appreciated the district’s willingness to move from the initial offer this year, and that’s why the process went faster,” said FMEA President Cory Byrne.
“For the first time in a quite some time, we feel like this is a fair settlement.”
Fort Madison Superintendent Dr. Erin Slater said everyone worked very collaboratively as part of a Labor/Management committee that helped smooth the path in the negotiations.
“We appreciate the process of negotiations with FMEA and all of our association groups. Everyone has worked very hard to create our collaborative environment in the FMCSD,” Slater said.
“Each association participates with the district in a Labor Management group of regularly scheduled articulation meetings that explore topics related to work environment, climate and culture. This process is in its fifth year and will continue into the future.”
Slater said although the district isn’t required to negotiate insurance benefits, the FMCSD has been working towards increasing insurance benefits for employees for the last several years.
“We were excited to announce the increased insurance allocation,” Slater said.
Fort Madison School board president Dianne Hope said the agreement still has to be ratified by the association, but said she felt very good after the meeting.
“It was a very collaborative discussion and a very good meeting,” Hope said.
She said the Labor/Management groups help open dialogues between the district and the respective associations within the district.
The contract is a one-year agreement.