APS approves contract with AEA

ALPENA – Alpena Public Schools Board of Education unanimously approved a contract with the Alpena Education Association at a special meeting Thursday morning. The contract was ratified by the AEA Tuesday, and will run through Aug. 31, 2016.

“We were pleased to work with the teachers,” Superintendent Brent Holcomb said. “We’ve been negotiating since March over a year ago, and the primary issue was the financial parts of the contract. Working out this settlement allows the district to move forward.”

There are significant changes in the contract relating to seniority, discipline and layoffs because of a change in the law, and teachers will now have the same insurance coverage as the other employee groups that ratified contracts with the district over the last year. This means a reduction in health coverage, and significant changes in prescription drug coverage.

In the last year of the contract, teachers may have the opportunity to earn back some of the wages that have been cut by giving up their preparatory planning hour during school. If they give up a planning hour and teach during that time instead, they could earn back the 10 percent cut, at the discretion of the district.

In 2013-14 there was a 3.29 percent decrease in wages, and now in 2014-15, the percent will be 6.71, which will bring the decrease to a 10 percent total, and that 10 percent decrease will continue through 2015-16.

“The additional decrease in 2014-2015 is 6.71 percent, which is how we get to the full 10 percent reduction. Then the 10 continues through the following year,,”Assistant Superintendent Diane Block said.

The agreement is contingent upon the Michigan Department of Education’s willingness to extend the district’s deficit elimination plan through the 2015-16 school year.

“We’re going to request an extension from the MDE,” Block said. “The change doesn’t impact any numbers until Sept. 1, and because we just submitted a deficit elimination plan, I have not contacted them yet, but they are aware of what’s happening.”

Holcomb said the negotiation process worked out as the law allows, and he didn’t think the district could have done anything differently.

“I’m just pleased that we were able to work with our teachers and the association, and ultimately, after a long process, come to an agreement,” Holcomb said.

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