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Contract negotiations at standstill at ACGC

GROVE CITY -- Despite being overwhelmingly defeated by its teachers last week, a two-year teachers' contract was approved Monday by the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School Board, creating an unusual stalemate for the district.

GROVE CITY -- Despite being overwhelmingly defeated by its teachers last week, a two-year teachers' contract was approved Monday by the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School Board, creating an unusual stalemate for the district.

Unless the teachers reconsider the proposal and take another vote on it, the district could end up going to arbitration.

If the district misses the Jan. 15 state deadline for having a teachers' contract ratified -- which includes approval by teachers and by the school board, it will have to pay a one-time fine of $25 per pupil-unit.

For ACGC, that would mean a penalty of between $24,000 and $25,000.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the district office had not been notified of a second vote by the teachers.

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The contract offered by the school board included a total salary and benefits package increase of 2.95 percent for the 2007-08 school year, and 2.08 percent for 2008-09, according to Connie Dallmann, ACGC business manager.

A retirement incentive was also included for a one-time $12,000 payment to a teacher's health care savings plan for teachers who retire between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 1011.

Interim Superintendent Dr. Keith Redfield said that considering ACGC is in statutory operating debt, the offer is "extremely fair."

Statutory operating debt means the amount of money the district has in its net unreserved general fund is not enough to meet state financial standards.

Redfield said the school board made it "abundantly clear" to the teachers' negotiators that "they felt this was even more than they could afford," and that the board was "not going to budge anymore."

Redfield explained details of the proposal during the school board meeting. He said it was important for the public, as well as the 20 or so teachers who were also at the meeting, to understand exactly what was being proposed.

It's hoped that once the teachers fully understand what is being offered and "review it a little more succinctly than they did the first time," they will reconsider the package, Redfield said.

He said the board approved the proposal, knowing that the teachers had already rejected it, in part to send a message that the top offer had been made.

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The threat of losing nearly $25,000 to pay a fine was another reason Redfield wanted to "accelerate this process a little bit."

If an agreement isn't reached, Redfield said there is an option to move to arbitration. If that happens, he said, the current proposal on the table would be thrown out and negotiations would begin from scratch.

Redfield said he remains hopeful that the teachers will reconsider the proposal.

The ACGC staff has the equivalent of 61.49 full-time employees.

Related Topics: BRAINERD PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at clange@wctrib.com or 320-894-9750
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