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Teachers, district reach a tentative contract deal

One year after the two sides started talking, the Farmington School District reached a tentative contract agreement with its teachers’ union May 25.

Negotiating teams for the district and its teachers met for about an hour last Wednesday afternoon to reach the agreement. Then lead negotiators for both sides got together again Thursday to make sure everyone was clear on the details of the proposal before it was sent out to teachers. They will vote on it soon, and the Farmington School Board will take action at its June 13 meeting.

Assuming everyone approves, the deal will bring to an end a negotiation process that went on longer than anybody involved hoped it would. On Monday, superintendent Jay Haugen said the sides had met 18 times for two to eight hours at a time. There was also a 15-hour mediation session earlier this year.

“It feels good to be done,” said Lynda Ihlan, president of the Farmington Education Association. “I think both sides definitely compromised from where we started out. We wouldn’t be bringing this tentative agreement forward if we didn’t feel that it was what we could get at the time and what we felt good bringing to teachers.”

Human resources director MaryAnn Thomas said she felt confident going into last week’s meeting that the two sides could reach an agreement.

“I think everybody was just thinking, ‘We’re nearing the end of the school year, is there anything we can do to get this done?’” Thomas said.

Details of the agreement will not be made public until teachers have voted on it. That vote is scheduled to take place June 6.

Teachers had pushed for a salary increase that keeps pace with other nearby districts, and for a commitment to lowering class sizes. The district said it would reduce class sizes if voters approved an operating levy last November, which they did. Teachers had been asking for that reduction to be written into their contract.

In recent months, teachers had become increasingly vocal about their frustrations. They gathered in large numbers at school board meetings and sent teachers to the podium to tell board members class sizes were too big and that they felt undervalued.

Thomas said she does not expect any ill will expressed during the negotiation process to linger.

“I think from any negotiations, you can learn from it,” she said. “I think there’s some things we can work on together before the next contract to make sure we’re on the same page.”

Ihlan also believes the settlement reached last week will help things get back to normal in the district, but she sees some value in what might turn into a built-in cooling off period for the two sides.

“I think it’s good that obviously we’re coming to the end of the school year,” she said. “There will be a little bit of a break, and teachers can come back refreshed because obviously it’s been a stressful school year.”

The new contract will be retroactive to July 1 of 2015 and will run through July 1 of 2017.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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