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School board, teachers continue negotiations

Negotiations between the Jamestown Public School District and the Jamestown Education Association came closer to being resolved after a meeting Wednesday, according to Bob Toso, school board member and part of its negotiating team.

"We are a lot closer at the end of the meeting than at the beginning," he said.

Lynn Kosel, a negotiator for the Jamestown Educators Association, said the discussion was moving forward.

"If we can get the numbers close, we can come to an agreement," he said.

The JEA made a proposal that reduced the increase between steps in the salary system from $1,717 to $1,500 for the first year and $1,300 during the second year. The proposal also limited the amount of experience a new teacher could bring into the system to 10 years. The teachers also said they would like to work with the school board to eliminate inequities in wages for teachers with less than seven years of experience and would give the school board more votes on the Health Insurance Committee.

JEA did not present the cost of the proposal for the district, which will be calculated by the school's administrative staff.

Jennifer Schmidt, a member of the school board negotiating team, said the proposal was different than previously discussed

Previous negotiations had included a single line salary schedule which had been a sticking point for both sides.

"This would be a complete shift in directions," she said.

Schmidt said the idea would need to be discussed by the full school board at its June 17 meeting to determine a negotiating strategy.

Kosel said adjusting wages for new teachers is a priority for the JEA. For several years, wages were increased but teachers were not moved forward within the salary system.

"We want to get people who were frozen on the salary system up to where they should be," he said.

Early in the meeting, Schmidt presented a report on the current status of the Jamestown School District finances including a report showing the district's reserves had fallen from 20% in 2012 to 11% at the end of the last school year. The report noted the average wage for teachers in the Jamestown School District was $60,150 which ranked 11th in the state of North Dakota.

The next negotiations meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. June 27 at Thompson Auditorium in Jamestown Middle School.