USD 259 Contract Agreement

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Tuesday night, the teachers union and the Wichita school district agreed on a tentative contract agreement. There was a lot of relief among the negotiating teams and everyone left smiling for the most part.

Here are the highlights:

1. Full health insurance, $80 increase.
2. Reward additional education and career development hours.
3. Additional planning time.
4. Sabbatical leave down from fifteen to five.
5. New teachers will be paid on September 15 instead of September 30.

It seems both sides are satisfied with the outcome.

One Wichita teacher, Michelle Penner comments, "It's part of our souls, you love it or you don't. And if you don't, you're not doing it, because there's no money in it."

Penner was one of several teachers who sat in on the contract negotiations that would decide their future pay and benefits. She is satisfied with the tentative agreement and feels it is beneficial since teachers will get health insurance, a major benefit.

Barbara Fuller, who led the teacher's union team, says considering the tough economic times facing the district, she too is happy they have reached a tentative agreement.

Fuller says, "The teachers do like to start the year with a contract, and know what it's going to be about and then they can get about teaching kids and that's what we're here for."

Board member Chip Gramke says reaching an agreement is bittersweet.

Gramke says he is glad it is over and that the district can move on. Gramke says he knows that teachers did not get what they deserved at the table.

Gramke, Fuller and Superintendent Winston Brooks, were all critical of the Kansas legislature for not making education a priority.

Brooks says, "I challenge the legislature to step up to the plate next session and do the right thing for kids in Kansas."

The tentative salary and benefits contract is actually a 3.25 increase over last years contract, which according to Gramke was not an easy thing to do considering the board also had to cut ten million dollars from their overall budget.

The contract will now go to the teachers for a vote probably by the end of August.

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