After almost a year of negotiations, and one failed vote, the Dodge City National Education Association voted to ratify the contract offered by the USD 443 Board of Education Thursday night.  The contract passed with a vote of 61 percent, with 67 percent of the teachers voting.

The vote was for a two-year contract, including both the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 academic years, with the stipulation that allows for one item to be negotiated for the 2015-2016 school year, if needed.  The teachers had been working under the terms of the 2013-2014 contract since the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year.

“The negotiations process has been long but we can now concentrate on other tasks,” DCNEA President Janet Keeton said.  “While the situation in Topeka is uncertain, we have the security of knowing how our next year and a half will look.” 

For grades Pre-K though 8, the contract calls for eight late-start days each year, two for professional development and six for professional learning community meetings.  There will be no additional PLC meetings during a week in which a late-start day is scheduled.  There is a change in Article 7 of the Negotiated Agreement between Dodge City NEA and the USD 443 Board of Education defining “PLCs” and allowing professional development during late start days.

An additional $500 is added to the beginning or first year teacher’s salary, making it $36,850 for the 2014-2015 school year and $37,300 for 2015 – 2016.  An additional $250 is allocated for returning teachers, as well as additional increases ranging from $1,500 to $3,000 for obtaining additional college credits or degrees.

The new contract contains a three percent increase in the Special Salaries Base, which includes coaches and extra duty assignments ranging from club sponsorships to newspaper, speech, forensics and debate.

In addition, middle school music teachers are paid a supplemental salary of four percent, while elementary music teachers received a two percent increase as payment for evening performances.

Statutory due process was eliminated by the Kansas legislature recently; however, as part of the new contract, the district is offering procedural due process after a teacher’s third year of employment.  The contract provides for a hearing officer, rather than the board of education to hear a challenge to the non-renewal of a non-probationary.  It also offers a definition of “good cause” for non-renewal, and states that the decision of the hearing officer is a “recommendation” to the board that is non-binding.  It also allows for an appeal to the District Court of a teacher non-renewal.

The district has an agreement with DC-NEA whereby $1000 is paid to each teacher who receives an English as a Second Language (ESL) endorsement, as long as a specific quota is met each year.  That quota was not met last year but the board agreed to continue with the payment for the 2014-2015 school year as part of the new contract.  In addition to the initial $1,000, each teacher receives an extra $100 each year they keep their ESL endorsement.  The new contract also includes an annual raise in health insurance benefits from $7,500 per year to $8,220 for 2014-2015 and $9,045 for 2015-2015.

“The district has seen increased health insurance costs over the past several years,” Superintendent Alan Cunningham said.

“The insurance benefit is paid by the board for every teacher in the district, regardless of whether they take the insurance or not,” Cunningham said. “That covers 100 percent of the cost of our Plan 3 health insurance premium for a single person.”

“We would like to thank the board of education and DCNEA negotiating teams for creating a solid due process structure and for volunteering their time and services,” Keeten said.  “We thank the educators and administrators for their patience and understanding throughout this process.”

USD 443 teachers were set to take the proposed contract to a vote in mid-October.  However, the day before the scheduled vote, representatives from DCNEA postponed it until such time as the definitions of “Professional Learning Communities" and “Professional Development” were clarified.

After the wording in the Negotiated Agreement was changed, the vote was once again scheduled, this time for Nov. 25.  All teachers, regardless of whether or not they are DC-NEA members, were eligible to vote.  Voting was held in each of the buildings.  The contract failed at that time by a vote of 78 percent, with 82 percent of teachers voting.

“In the past, voting has been at about 50 percent,” Keeten said.  “We were really shooting for 99 percent.”

The Board of Education ratified the two-year agreement during a luncheon meeting held at Northwest Elementary School on Jan. 26.