With students returning to school this week, the Shawnee Mission School District announced it has reached a tentative contract agreement with the district’s teachers.
School board members unanimously approved the agreement Monday, and it now goes before teachers for ratification.
“I think it was a very successful and productive negotiation session,” said District Superintendent Jim Hinson. “I want to thank the district team and the (National Education Association-Shawnee Mission) team as well for reaching agreement in light of the circumstances in which we live under and is the best possible agreement.”
If approved, the contract would provide $2.4 million in step salary increases for teachers and additional pay for those who gain advance degrees. It would also include a $1.2 million increase in health care costs, although the district said it would absorb the $50 a month increase for each teacher if the teacher undergoes health risk assessment, a standard incentive in aimed at identifying, treating or preventing chronic health problems, such as diabetes, obesity or high-blood pressure.
Hinson said the $3.6 million in additional expense is already included in the $393.9 million budget the school board approved Monday for the 2015-2016 school year.
Linda Sieck, president of the NEA-SM, which represented the teachers, said the union would begin explaining the new contract to teachers in the coming weeks with voting after that and results expected by Sept. 3.
Sieck called the agreement a “good start of the relationship” and that the two sides made progress on two big concerns of the teachers: dealing with a lack of substitute teachers that last school year sometimes had teachers covering extra classes, and protecting teachers’ planning time from having to juggle too many new school initiatives.
“Even though it didn’t result in contract language there was a willingness to work with us to help resolve problems throughout the year,” she said. “The process was an improvement over years past.”
The new annual budget represents a 22 percent increase from the $322.5 million spent last year. Most of the increase includes capital improvements made possible by a bond issue voters approved this winter.
Not including those expenses or payments to retire debt, the school district is planning to spend $268 million, or $10,152 per student, compared with $256.3 million, or $9,754 per student, last school year.
Hinson said the district is currently slated to end the school year with a $700,000 deficit. But he noted that the district expected a $300,000 deficit last year and ended up with a $1.7 million budget surplus.