The Sitka School Board and district teachers have signed off on a new three-year contract.

For the first year of the deal, at least, teachers agreed to take no pay raise.

Tim Pike teaches vocational education and served as a negotiator for the Sitka Education Association.

Sitka_School_District_logo“In our background we spent a lot of time looking at all of the factors that are around: All of the state factors, local factors, federal factors — what does the funding picture look like for the district. So that if we ask for something, it’s reasonable and doable. That’s critical to us because we’re part of the community.”

In the second and third years of the contract, teachers will get raises of $500 and $750 respectively.

The pay hikes will be applied uniformly across the pay scale: A teacher who’s been on staff for 15 years will be bumped the same $500 as a new hire.

Pike says that there’s a simple rationale behind the strategy.

“We do that on purpose to try and bring as much money as possible into the bottom of the salary schedule, to attract quality applicants when we have teachers retire.”

Pike says the new contract was well-received by union membership, even though agreeing to a year without a pay raise is unusual. In 2016, for example — also a tight budget year — district teachers agreed to annual raises of $500, $750, and $900.

This year’s vote was unanimous — almost.

“All the votes came in and only one teacher voted against it.”

Under the new contract, beginning teachers in 2019 will earn $49,100. Top-end teachers, with 15 or more years experience and a Master’s Degree, will earn $78,725. You can read the contract yourself on our website,

The Sitka School Board signed the new teacher contract on March 22, in the middle of their annual budget process. At a budget hearing Tuesday night (3-29-16), the board moved no closer to closing the $1-million projected deficit for next year.

Significant public opposition to closing the Performing Arts Center expressed at a meeting last week sent the board looking for other ideas. One of those — transferring responsibility for the PAC to the private sector, to an entity like the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, would likely be illegal, according to Sitka’s chief financial officer Jay Sweeney.

The board also remains reluctant to increase class sizes in the elementary grades, while a discussion about closing the Ventures program did get traction.

Ventures is the the district’s after-school activity program for elementary grades. Although parents pay fees for children to attend, the district is limited in how much it can charge. Ventures serves about 25 children, one-quarter of whom are low income. The cost of providing Ventures in 2014 was over $57,000.

(Note: According to the Sitka School District, the average subsidy over the last 10 years is $15,231, with a range of $5,280 in 2005 to $57,125 in 2014.)

The next school board meeting is 6 PM Tuesday April 5 in the high school library. The board will meet with the Sitka assembly for a budget work session 6 PM Thursday April 7.