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Teachers, board near agreement

Dickinson teachers are one step closer -- or further away -- to having two-year contracts in their hands.

After the collaborative bargaining process between the Dickinson Education Association and the Dickinson Public School Board came to an impasse in May, the issue went to the Governor's Education Factfinding Commission, which delivered its recommendations Wednesday.

The board met Monday evening in executive session to discuss the recommendations.

The education association meets tonight, said Brian Woehl, its head negotiator.

The negotiation team will meet sometime before the July 9 deadline given by the commission. It can accept the recommendations as-is, or make changes, but it must come to an agreement by the deadline.

"I couldn't predict what the negotiation team would do," said Kris Fehr, DPS Board president. "I really don't know if there would be any tweaking."

If the negotiation team doesn't reach an agreement, the Factfinding Commission will take out a full-page advertisement in The Dickinson Press explaining who it thinks is at fault, charging each entity with half the cost, according to the report.

The commission recommended a two-year contract with the board-proposed salary, which was a $2,000 increase in the base salary in year one and $1,500 more in year two, according to the report. This would start a first-year teacher at $38,400.

The board had wanted two additional professional development days in year two of the contract. The commission recommended one additional day.

"I think that the Factfinding Commission's report pretty well summarized negotiations and I think that their recommendations are reasonable," Fehr said.

The commission also suggested the Professional Development Leadership Team meet in the first year of the contract to address the needs of the faculty in those development days.

"When you come to an impasse -- even if you're doing collaborative bargaining -- impasse is not bad," Fehr said. "Impasse means that you are not able to agree on an issue and sometimes you need an outside individual or group to come in and help you with it."

The recommended salaries are estimated to cost $4.25 million, or 85 percent of the $5 million estimated as increased revenue for the district, according to the report.

"I think it's an indication of the value that we place in our staff," Fehr said. "Eight-five percent of the new money is going to teacher salaries and to improving those salaries."

The Factfinding Commission consists of Chairman Dean Rummel, Dickinson, Jerry Hieb, Valley City, and Barb Evanson, Bismarck. It held a hearing in Dickinson on June 13 at the Hagen Junior High Gymnasium.

Woehl declined comment when contacted by The Press, deferring to DEA President Diana Stroud. The Press was told to contact Stroud, who does not have a listed phone number, via email. As of press time Stroud had not returned communication with The Press.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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