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Willmar, Minn., School Board OKs new teacher contract with longer workdays

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WILLMAR -- Teachers in the Willmar School District will be working longer days next year, and they'll receive a raise to pay for their extra time.

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School administrators hope that the additional time for meetings and planning will help increase student achievement.

The Willmar School Board gave final approval to the 2011-13 contract with the local Education Minnesota bargaining unit Monday afternoon.

The contract will increase a teacher's official workday from 7 hours a day to 7.5 hours a day.

Teacher salary schedules commonly consist of a series of steps and lanes. Teachers move up the steps based on years of service and move to different lanes with additional education.

For this school year, there will be no increase in the salary schedule and teachers will not be awarded step increases. Those who have completed additional education will receive lane increases.

In the second year of contract, when their workday increases, the salary schedule will increase 6.25 percent to reflect a 7 percent increase in work time, Human Resources Director Liz Fischer told the board Monday.

Title teachers will receive a 1 percent increase for this school year and a 2 percent increase in the next school year.

The agreement also includes some language changes and clarifications.

The total increase in the contract cost for the district over the two years is 7.63 percent.

After the board approved the contract, Chairman Nathan Streed called it "a good deal for the students, teachers and the board."

After the meeting, two of the teacher negotiators said they were pleased with the final contract.

"It's going to give us an opportunity for increased learning for our students," said middle school teacher Sue Thell, because the additional time in the day will allow more time for teachers to meet together and increase coordinator.

"It will give us additional time for data analysis," added elementary teacher Melissa Dunlavy.

Fischer and the teachers agreed that it was a longer-than-usual negotiations process.

"Throughout the negotiations process, the teachers were trying to be fiscally responsible," Thell said.

The additional workday was not popular with all the teachers, as many already put in long hours outside school, Dunlavy said. But at the end, a majority of them agreed to the contract.

Fischer said she was pleased with the final result of the contract.

The board and administration sought a longer formal workday "to hopefully increase student achievement," she said. Teachers felt they could use the additional time, and there was also some public concern expressed.

"The demands of any job continue to increase," Thell said, so the additional time should be helpful.

In other business, the board:

n Adopted a revised budget for the 2011-12 school year.

n Set a public hearing on the district's new iPad policy for 4:30 p.m. June 11, at the beginning of the next board meeting. The district plans to provide Apple iPad tablet computers for all juniors and seniors next fall.

n Approved slight revisions to students handbooks at the Area Learning Center, Senior High, Middle School and both elementary schools. At the Senior High, half as many handbooks as usual will be printed, as about 600 juniors and seniors are expected to have the handbook downloaded onto their iPads.

n Denied a grievance filed by a teacher over the staff seniority list.

WILLMAR -- Teachers in the Willmar School District will be working longer days next year, and they'll receive a raise to pay for their extra time.

School administrators hope that the additional time for meetings and planning will help increase student achievement.

The Willmar School Board gave final approval to the 2011-13 contract with the local Education Minnesota bargaining unit Monday afternoon.

The contract will increase a teacher's official workday from 7 hours a day to 7.5 hours a day.

Teacher salary schedules commonly consist of a series of steps and lanes. Teachers move up the steps based on years of service and move to different lanes with additional education.

For this school year, there will be no increase in the salary schedule and teachers will not be awarded step increases. Those who have completed additional education will receive lane increases.

In the second year of contract, when their workday increases, the salary schedule will increase 6.25 percent to reflect a 7 percent increase in work time, Human Resources Director Liz Fischer told the board Monday.

Title teachers will receive a 1 percent increase for this school year and a 2 percent increase in the next school year.

The agreement also includes some language changes and clarifications.

The total increase in the contract cost for the district over the two years is 7.63 percent.

After the board approved the contract, Chairman Nathan Streed called it "a good deal for the students, teachers and the board."

After the meeting, two of the teacher negotiators said they were pleased with the final contract.

"It's going to give us an opportunity for increased learning for our students," said middle school teacher Sue Thell, because the additional time in the day will allow more time for teachers to meet together and increase coordinator.

"It will give us additional time for data analysis," added elementary teacher Melissa Dunlavy.

Fischer and the teachers agreed that it was a longer-than-usual negotiations process.

"Throughout the negotiations process, the teachers were trying to be fiscally responsible," Thell said.

The additional workday was not popular with all the teachers, as many already put in long hours outside school, Dunlavy said. But at the end, a majority of them agreed to the contract.

Fischer said she was pleased with the final result of the contract.

The board and administration sought a longer formal workday "to hopefully increase student achievement," she said. Teachers felt they could use the additional time, and there was also some public concern expressed.

"The demands of any job continue to increase," Thell said, so the additional time should be helpful.

In other business, the board:

- Adopted a revised budget for the 2011-12 school year.

- Set a public hearing on the district's new iPad policy for 4:30 p.m. June 11, at the beginning of the next board meeting. The district plans to provide Apple iPad tablet computers for all juniors and seniors next fall.

- Approved slight revisions to students handbooks at the Area Learning Center, Senior High, Middle School and both elementary schools. At the Senior High, half as many handbooks as usual will be printed, as about 600 juniors and seniors are expected to have the handbook downloaded onto their iPads.

- Denied a grievance filed by a teacher over the staff seniority list.

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Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340
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