The Jamestown Public School Board and Jamestown Education Association agreed to a two-year contract for teachers in the district on Monday, Sept. 23.
Negotiations stalled last week before the board declared impasse, meaning an agreement could not be reached after JEA rejected the school board's final best offer. Superintendent Robert Lech said representatives from JEA contacted the board on Saturday, arranging for another contract negotiation session.
The two-year contract agreed upon Monday includes $800 salary increases for the 2019-2020 school year and a $1,300 increase for the second year. In the accepted contract offer, the starting salary for a teacher with a bachelor's degree will be $43,817 in the first year of the contract.
"JEA doesn't necessarily want a base raise; however, we will accept," said Danielle Giesler, lead negotiator for JEA.
Giesler and fellow teachers wanted to spread the salary raises through steps in the salary schedule, but accepted the board's offer "in the interest of moving on."
"Other districts have raised their base (salaries) this year, and we want to keep that," said Jennifer Schmidt, school board president.
JEA came to the meeting with a proposed contract offer; the school board countered with the offer that was accepted by JEA. JEA's offer was for a base salary of $43,117 for a teacher with a bachelor's degree. The teachers wanted a lower base salary for starting teachers in order to spread money throughout later steps in the salary schedule, while the board wanted a higher base salary to keep wages in Jamestown competitive in comparison to other districts.
"We have it quite good in Jamestown, we're aware of that," Giesler said.
Both parties agreed that a newly hired teacher in the district cannot be paid more than a returning teacher with similar experience. A newly hired teacher in the district can bring in a maximum of 10 years of experience outside of Jamestown Public Schools to count toward the salary schedule.
The two parties also agreed that the Health Insurance Committee for the district would consist of five teachers (three voting, two ex-officio), two board members, one administrator and one support staff member. The committee chairman must be a teacher.
Lech said he will notify the North Dakota Education Factfinding Commission of the agreement. The commission was contacted once impasse was declared to investigate the negotiations before offering a recommendation.
The school board and JEA started negotiations in May.
"I'm thankful that we came to an agreement," Schmidt said.
"We negotiated for a long time," Giesler said. "I'm looking forward to moving on with our school year and getting back to what is most important for us as the teachers. The kids."