Teachers ratify mediators proposal

ALPENA -The Alpena Education Association has ratified a mediator’s proposed settlement after 14 months of bargaining, a fact-finding hearing and mediation. The proposed settlement would consist of a 10 percent salary reduction for 2014-15 and 2015-16, along with increased insurance costs to teachers for office visits, prescriptions, deductibles and co-pays.

“We will continue to work with the district on cost containment measures that will bring it to financial health,” AEA President Erin Kieliszewski stated in a press release. “Systematic changes must occur in order for there to be a better financial future for Alpena Public Schools.”

The insurance offering was the same as all other employee groups had accepted earlier during their bargaining time. The district and AEA met July 10, with the mediator and reached a tentative agreement for a settlement.

“It came down to if we wanted to take a 17 percent cut or a 10 percent cut,” MEA UniServ Director Deb Larson said. “It was a lot of disappointment and frustration, but they understand it is the best they could get until the district is out of a deficit.”

The settlement would last one year longer than the other union contracts with district employees, going until 2016. The other groups, custodians, aides, bus drivers and secretaries contracts will expire in 2015.

“There’s a salary redemption option in the 2015-16 year where a teacher could teach all day, versus having a planning period, and if they did that, they could get their 10 percent reduction back,” Larson said. “So if they taught five out of five periods, they could get a 10 percent redemption instead of the usual stipend for teaching the full day without a planning period. It’s still going to be a matter of negotiating with the district as to what positions that would be possible to do that with or not.”

Some teachers currently teach in an “overload” and receive a stipend, so this would be an option the district and AEA could look at in the future.

“We feel good in that because it gets the district to plan ahead,” Larson said. “There is no plan for the future and we want one.”

If the board of education ratifies the tentative agreement during a special meeting, then the AEA would sign off on it and have a contract until 2016.

Superintendent Brent Holcomb said he is glad there is a tentative agreement, and was pleased to work with the teachers to achieve it, and that the board will be voting on it at the special meeting.

“We met with the mediator in mid July, and felt like we were making progress,” Holcomb said. “Using a state mediator, we were able to reach a tentative agreement at that time.”

The Alpena Public Schools Board of Education will hold a special meeting Thursday at 8 a.m. to vote on the tentative agreement.

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at ngrulke@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews