Dickinson educators to review tentative agreement following months of negotiations

Teacher negotiations are coming to an end, with approvals needed by both sides to be finalized. The collective bargaining agreement took multiple meetings over two months to achieve and will provide clearer guidance and contractual obligations for both sides on hot button issues.

Dickinson educators listen during a previous teacher negotiations meeting. The Dickinson Public School Board met with the Dickinson Education Association Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in their sixth teacher negotiations meeting, where they came to a tentative agreement.
Dickinson educators listen during a previous teacher negotiations meeting. The Dickinson Public School Board met with the Dickinson Education Association Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in their sixth teacher negotiations meeting, where they came to a tentative agreement.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press
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DICKINSON — For their sixth collective bargaining meeting, the Dickinson Public School Board convened Tuesday with the Dickinson Education Association (DEA) where they came to a tentative agreement on proposals and topics that they have spent nearly two months in discussions on.

In a phone interview with The Dickinson Press, Superintendent Marcus Lewton and DEA President Shawna Knipp noted that though the teacher negotiations have been ongoing since March 23, they are coming to an end. On Friday, the DEA will have a meeting to ratify the tentative agreement. Thereafter, the school board will hold a special meeting next week to approve said agreement.

“We feel that we have collaborated very well with the school board and that negotiations went well and that we are very hopeful that come tomorrow, we will have a decision made by the DEA, as a whole, as to their thoughts on the negotiated agreement,” Knipp said, adding that the teacher negotiations typically last a couple of months before the two entities come to an agreement.

Of the many items that were brought before both entities, graduate hours was one of the topics that educators and administrators spent substantial time discussing. This item also tied into concerns on the educator salary matrix , or chart that can be used to determine the annual salary and rate of salary progression of employees. To Dickinson educators, this process is also known as “steps and lanes.”

“... As you know, the teachers’ summers oftentimes are spent taking courses just like other professions, doctors, lawyers, etc., to improve their pedagogy,” Lewton said. “So they get credit, they move over over on the salary schedule when they get credit for that. And that’s one of the ways that they can increase their salary. So we just tried to expedite that process where they know sooner if they’re going to move over or not.”


Lewton also highlighted that PTO requests was one of the several main topics of discussion, revolving around the school district's move from sick and personal leave to PTO, Lewton said, adding that this was a way to simplify the process.

“It was kind of convoluted before where you had so many days for this type of illness and so many days for if your kids were sick versus if you were sick. And so we just lumped them together, essentially. There's a few less days total. But this year was a trial run on it. And so we agreed to move forward with it,” Lewton said. “The district wanted the ability for a principal to approve or deny it… Sometimes there's unforeseen circumstances to keep buildings open essentially like if there was a flu, or something like that where you would deny a personal leave. So if you couldn't find subs.”

According to Lewton, the teachers wanted assurance with that approval process so they can plan their days off accordingly. From Tuesday’s meeting, the two entities came to the conclusion that a principal has seven days to approve or deny the PTO request. If there is a disagreement on the educator side, they can bring that up to the superintendent.

With each teacher negotiations meeting, there are proposals on both sides. They caucus and discuss, Lewton noted, adding that they dialogue back and forth in order to come up with a solution.

“... Our educators are awesome… It’s just so cool to see all the achievements and those things aren’t done on accident. Those things are done through blood, sweat and tears of educators,” he said, adding, “It’s the end of the school year and I’m just very grateful for everybody.”

Jackie Jahfetson is a graduate of Northern Michigan University whose journalism path began in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as a freelancer for The Daily Mining Gazette. Her previous roles include editor-in-chief at The North Wind and reporter at The Mining Journal in Marquette, Mich. Raised on a dairy farm, she immediately knew Dickinson would be her first destination west as she focuses on gaining aptitude for ranch life, crop farming and everything agriculture. She covers hard news stories centered on government, fires, crime and education. When not fulfilling deadlines and attending city commission meetings, she is a budding musician and singer.
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