Teachers in Sitka have a new contract. The Sitka School Board Tuesday approved a three-year deal with the Sitka Education Association. The union represents 116 certified teachers.
Under terms of the deal, the school district will double its budget for professional development, from $15,000 to about $30,000. The money will include funding to send teachers to professional conferences or to let them take online classes.
The deal also includes wage increases of about $800 a year for each section of the district’s salary table. It works out to annual increases of about 1-and-a-half to 2 percent.
Superintendent Steve Bradshaw says the district agreed to the pay increases in order to help teachers keep up with the cost of living.
“I don’t ever see costs going down anywhere,” he said. “I think teachers were extremely respectful in their request this year, and I think the SESPA union, our classified union, is being tremendously respectful. At the same time, they have to feed their children, and they have to pay their heat bills. We have to be able to try to do the best we can, and at the same time be respectful of the fact that the economy is down and our resources are limited, not only in the community but in the state, to a certain extent.”
Bradshaw says in order for the district to recruit and retain talented teachers, it has to offer competitive wages. A first year teacher in Sitka with a bachelor’s degree earns about $46,000. A teacher at the top of the pay scale, with a master’s degree, 21 or more years of experience, and more than 32 credits of coursework beyond their masters, can expect to earn about $80,000. (Link to the current contract and salary table.)
The district also will begin to pick up a greater percentage of health insurance, eventually moving to cover 90 percent of the premiums by the last year of the contract. Bradshaw says that puts Sitka in line with common practices at school districts around the state.
At the same time, the Sitka School District is considering cuts to positions as it works out a very tight budget for next year.
“I understand when people have concerns about, ‘Well, why are they giving pay raises when they’re cutting the budget?'” Bradshaw said. “But there hasn’t been a year here that I’ve been aware of, nor has there been a year in my educational career of 37 years, where we haven’t had to cut budgets in some fashion.”
The teachers’ union is one of two in the district. Bradshaw says negotiations continue with the Sitka Educational Support Professional Association, or SESPA, which represents about 70 people, including secretaries, aides and other support personnel.