By Dedra Cordle
The South-Western City Schools Board of Education unanimously approved a three-year contract with the district’s largest union on Monday night.
At a special meeting held on May 23, the board announced they have reached a new collective bargaining agreement with the South-Western Education Association (SWEA) after weeks of negotiations. The association represents approximately 1,600 certificated staff members, including teachers, guidance counselors, nurses, psychologists, and tutors.
Members of the board said they were pleased to have come to terms with these “integral instructional assets” within the district.
“Teachers and other certificated staff members within SWEA represent an integral instructional asset to our students and families each day in the district,” wrote board president Cathy Johnson in a press release. “As a former teacher, I know well the great lengths these dedicated educators go to in school and beyond – in parent-teacher conferences, summer preparation, and grading students’ work well into most evenings.
“We are incredibly fortunate to have some of the most highly sought after educators in the state within our ranks helping children reach new heights each day and this new agreement represents our commitment to helping them succeed.”
Under the terms of the new contract, which will take effect July 1 and run through June 30, 2025, SWEA members will receive a 3 percent increase in base pay in the first year, a 3 percent increase in base pay in the second year, and a 2.8 percent increase in base pay in the third year. There will be no change in benefits from the last negotiated contract.
South-Western City Treasurer Hugh Garside estimates that the contract will cost the district $12 million over the course of the three-year contract.
“It is slightly over what was forecasted but we feel like we’re in a good spot financially to provide this raise to our well-deserved employees,” he said.
He added the board also feels this new agreement will help the district retain its highly qualified staff and attract highly qualified staff.
The new agreement also includes a board commitment of $4 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to be used to hire additional support over the first two years of the contract. Garside said these supports will focus on closing social, emotional, and educational gaps caused by the pandemic and its change to school delivery instruction.
“Some of our students have really been socially and emotionally impacted by the change in delivery instruction and just the change in life in general,” he said. “There was a lot going on during that time period.”
Garside said this additional funding will help bolster the supports the district already has in place and add on to them.
Another item in the collective bargaining agreement is the formation of a study committee to review the current school day schedule for instruction and planning. The committee is expected to take the better part of two years to explore the opportunities that may exist by altering the current instructional schedule that has been in place for more than three decades.