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Teachers, district working toward pay deal

Teachers with the Bemidji Education Association and Bemidji School District officials are continuing to negotiate possible changes to the current and 2012-13 school year contracts.

So far, teachers with the BEA have met with school district officials 11 times, including once this week. A mediator from the state's Bureau of Mediation Services will meet with both sides for a second time Feb. 15 in an effort to resolve issues so a tentative agreement can be reached.

Every two years, Bemidji School District teachers have the opportunity to renegotiate the terms of their contract. Currently, teachers are working on the pay scale from the 2010-11 school year.

Issues that remain unsettled include determining the district's contributions for employee and retiree insurance benefits, lifetime maximum match for employees' retirement savings plan, number of instructional hours in the school calendar, and base salary.

The district's negotiations team includes board members John Pugleasa and Bill Faver, Jordan Hickman, the district's director of human resources, Chris Leinen, the district's director of business services, and Superintendent James Hess.

The BEA's negotiations team consists of Mary Kobilka, Ami Aalgaard, Tim Mayclin, Rob Strand and Jason Keoster.

Two years ago, the district and BEA officials struck a deal hours before the school district would have incurred a state-imposed, one-time penalty fee of roughly $130,000 for failing to meet the state-mandated Jan. 15 bargaining deadline.

The 2011 Legislature repealed this deadline.

Teaching contracts operate on a two-year term, beginning July 1 of each odd-numbered year.