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DPS, DEA teacher salary negotiations continue

Discussion between representatives from the Dickinson Public School Board and Dickinson Education Association pressed on Wednesday evening at the Central Administration Building as the two parties worked through a long list of agenda items regarding teacher salary negotiations.

At the beginning of the meeting, Superintendent Doug Sullivan reminded the two parties that the budget for increased revenue was set at $2.8 million before negotiations began.

So far, approximately $1.7 million has been spent on items such as hiring seven additional full-time employees, increasing substitute salaries by $2 per hour and covering rising transportation costs.

“We are going to have to subtract from that number,” DPS negotiator and board member Kris Fehr said.

The rest, amounting to approximately $1.1 million, will be allocated during negotiations.

With that in mind, negotiators from both sides agreed to a proposal brought forth by the DEA in regards to increasing personal leave time from six to eight days.

During the last meeting on July 21, DPS negotiators expressed concern about teachers accumulating lengthy periods of time and using it consecutively, leaving students with a substitute teacher for an extended stint.

Assistant Superintendent Vince Reep was asked to pull numbers of teachers who use accumulated leave and used it all at one time. That number was low with many professionals not using all of the days and opting for compensation instead.

“Nice to see, they (teachers) are taking the payout, which means the teachers are in the classroom with the kids, which is the objective of the school board,” Fehr said.

With that information, DPS negotiators agreed they would extend personal leave days to eight, but would cap the maximum consecutive days to five.

Sullivan said administrators will work up language before the next meeting, which will be signed when the two groups reconvene.

Negotiators also agreed that the language regarding outside-the-day compensation needs to be sharpened, though the exact terminology has yet to be determined.

Fehr reviewed instances where teachers are required to work outside of their contracted hours, but are not compensated for their time. She said teachers at the high school level are generally required to spend more time outside of their salaried hours than those instructing lower levels.

As it stands, language regarding specific instances teachers are required to be on school grounds is vague and, in the past, has led to teacher’s filing grievances.

DEA negotiator Brian Woehl proposed drawing from Williston Public School District, which compensates teachers at a base-pay hourly rate once they have accumulated seven hours beyond the contracted day.

Fehr surfaced the issue of additional paperwork that would be required if similar language was put into effect.

The two parties agreed additional research needs to be pulled from surrounding school districts before any decisions are made regarding the matter.

“There is no reason to reinvent the wheel here,” Woehl said.

Negotiators also discussed flexibility of professional development days and potentially amending the teacher grievance procedure, though more information needs to be gathered before any decision is made.

The two groups will meet again at noon Thursday, Aug. 13 to continue working through agenda items.