Farmington district, teachers reach contract deal
The Farmington Education Association teachers union reached agreement with the school district on a new contract approved by 80 percent of union members.
The two-year collective bargaining agreement represents about 460 teachers who are members of the FEA that voted on the agreement Oct. 11. The contract runs from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2019.
Farmington school officials were satisfied in how the teachers' contract was negotiated early and with an overall high percentage approval from FEA members.
"Both negotiating teams felt really great that we were able to negotiate this contract so early in the school year with over 80 percent of the voting teachers having approved the contract," said MaryAnn Thomas, human resources director.
Neither side was able to reach 100 percent of what was originally sought, but Thomas said "through dialogue and compromise we were able to indeed reach a fair settlement."
The settlement agreement represents $86 million for two years with a salary increase to the base matrix that was 2.5 percent and 2.6 percent each year, respectively.
"Both parties decided it was important to target any compensation increase to the base salary so that we can be competitive with our neighbors, so we did devote all our resources there and held other compensation items in the contract constant, including coaching and co-curricular this time," Thomas said. "The early settlement allows teachers to focus on what they do best, which is educate students without the distraction of working under an expired contract."
Tiger Fan Club President Sue Dentinger spoke during the open forum about Schedule D and the contract language changes. The TFC includes numerous high school booster clubs that support athletics and activities and are supported by volunteer parents.
Back in August, Dentinger spoke before the school board to say the contract language was confusing and that booster parents did not want to be subject to contracts, percentages, union negotiations, and volunteers did not want to spend hours calculating the donations.
"I would like to reiterate we have 23 booster clubs made up of amazing parents and guardian volunteers who spend countless hours raising funds to support the programs that our coaches, directors and advisors work so very hard to provide for our children," Dentinger said. "Even though we do feel it would be beneficial to everyone that the Schedule D language have additional clarification which reflects exactly the process the boosters follow today, we will cautiously put our trust in the 'implied' communications."
District administration verbally clarified the intent of the Schedule D contractual language was supposed to be forthcoming, Dentinger said.
"At no time has the TFC or any of our boosters agreed to any revised specific process or contract language nor have we been asked to review it," she added. "Verbal clarification and intent are very hard to hang our hats on when all we want to do is ensure the processes we are following are acceptable to all parties, including the union, the administration and the School Board and that this intent will not change in the future."
During the negotiation process, the district agreed to fund an assistant Robotics Club coach, an additional music and play choreographer and an assistant speech team coach, all at the high school.
During negotiations, the FEA asked for the district to fund many assistant coach positions that were not agreed upon and not part of the contract. The high school stipend assistant coaching positions, paying around $5,000 each, were not agreed upon. The total for this positions come in around $160,000 on the high end were not part of the agreement, said Todd Karich, FEA president.
This $160,000 will be funded by booster clubs within the Tiger Fan Club.
"The booster clubs should not be paying for that because the district should be paying for that stuff and for assistant coaches," Karich said.
Karich said the district must continue to remain competitive with salaries in comparison to neighboring school districts' compensation packages.
"When you look at Schedule D and the total budget, you look at the percentages and what percentages are for salaries within the assistant coaches for Schedule D," Karich said.
Back in 2014, the district spent 1.46 percent of its budget to fund the Schedule D salaries, Karich said. In 2016, the district spent 1.23 percent on Schedule D.
"If we kept the same percentage, we would be able to fund all the things we talking about," he added. When talking about district budget, Karich challenges the school board to readdress budget priorities and find a way to cover these stipends.
In an interview, Farmington District Superintendent Jay Haugen explained why the district is unable to pay for the assistant coaching stipends due to the district's limited funding.
"We would love to pick up every student at the door and bus them to school, and we would love to have all small classes and have every student being able to have the classes and programs they want, and we would love every student to have every athletic and every academic program paid for," Haugen said.
With limited funding, he said, the district is fully funding all athletic programs and providing coaches that are really necessary.
"It is all a balance and we are proud of the number of opportunities we give students and the level of coaching we are able to provide," Haugen said.
Booster Clubs exist to bolster programs by fundraising just as local Parent Teacher Partnerships raise money for supplies and programs that go beyond what the district is able to cover financially, Haugen said.
"You make choices and we spend every dime on kids and make programs available for kids," Haugen said.
Karich had a different view
"They are shifting the burden to parents whose kids participate in these activities — we need to have this conversation and we need to have it be a priority until people start getting informed," Karich said.