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Letter To The Editor - Former school board member sets record straight

To the editor:

I read with interest the article submitted by the Blackduck Education Association last week. As the head negotiator for the school board at the last negotiations, I would like to correct an impression that they attempted to make in their submission.

The teachers did not agree to a "hard freeze" last time but did agree to a "soft freeze." This means that there was no percentage increase in the base wage of the teachers, BUT, every teacher that had been with the district less than thirteen years did get their step increase and any teacher who had taken additional classes and qualified did get a lane increase. The approximate increase between steps 1 and 12 is 2.4 percent and between step 12 and 13 is 6.4 percent. The only teachers that got no increase were those at the top of the pay scale, those with the district over 13 years.

The teachers did not take a cut as most of the hourly employees did due to the four day school week, such as bus drivers. They took a 20 percent pay cut and at the time these hourly employees were told that if there was any money at all for the next negotiations they would be taken care of to a higher level than the employees that did not get a cut in wages.

It is interesting to note that last fall the district showed an account balance in the general fund of a little over one million dollars and currently they are showing less than half that. Enrollment has come down and cuts in employees so far have not been made to account for the lower enrollment. Our class sizes keep going down, so cuts in faculty and administration must be made to account for this.

Yes, senior citizens did receive a 3.6 percent increase in Social Security this year, but the last two years we did not get an automatic increase because we grew older and our contribution for Medicare increased every year, making our take home pay less.

The current contract with the Blackduck Education Association shows a starting salary of $32,975 in year one and $45,413 in year 13 in the BS lane. For a member with a MS+45 and 13 years experience the pay is $56,949. In addition to this, all members receive $630 a month towards health insurance and receive longevity pay of $2050 after 25 years, another $530 after 28 years and another $680 after 30 years.

Larry D. Zea