MILO — Teachers and board members ratified a three-year contract that will give SAD 41 instructors a 10 percent pay increase over the next three years.
The board Wednesday night agreed to make this year’s raises retroactive to Sept. 1. Teachers will add two in-service days over the final two years of the contract.
The district will continue to pay 100 percent of teachers’ health care insurance costs, but will pay a decreasing amount toward dependents’ coverage over the contract period, according to Superintendent David Walker. SAD 41 will pay 95 percent of those costs this year, 90 percent next year and 85 percent the third year.
Board member Murrel Harris said, “Teacher salaries today are market driven. We are a small, rural district, but must offer teachers’ pay that meets salaries in surrounding districts.” Two-thirds of the district’s instructors are at the top end of the salary scale, according to Walker.
Paul Grindle, chief negotiator for the SAD 41 Educators’ Association, said that salary was the most important issue for teachers, who did not receive a raise in the 1998-99 school year. He said negotiations were relatively easy because “David [Walker] and I laid all our cards on the table, discussed the issues and came up with a plan.”
Walker took over the reins of a district $433,000 in debt on April 1, three months earlier than he’d planned. A graduate of Penquis Valley High School, he has spent his entire teaching career in the district. Grindle said the fact that he “taught side-by-side for many years with David” made the negotiating process smoother than it had been in years past.
Walker told the board Wednesday night that the district had negotiated all of its five work agreements since the beginning of the school year. All employees will be required to have direct deposit accounts at the beginning of their contract year, he said. Walker estimated the move will save the district more time than money, employee time that will be redirected to the financial operation of district.
In other business, the board received a report from an ad hoc committee on bus transportation recommending that the district reject the idea of contracted service. After studying proposals from three area transportation companies, the committee concluded that it is less expensive for the district to own and maintain its own fleet of vehicles and hire its own employees than to pay a transportation company.
Bus drivers in SAD 41, which includes Milo, Brownville, LaGrange, Atkinson and Lakeview Plantation, log 170,000 miles per year, excluding transportation to co-curricular activities. Projected costs for the 2000-01 school year, including the purchase of a new bus, are $277,000. Estimates from bus contractors ranged from $5,000 to $25,000 more than that figure, according to the committee’s report.
“We appreciate the willingness of the bus companies to participate in this process,” said Walker. “We did not ask for bids, but for proposals. At first, they were reluctant to participate, and in spite of our decision, we appreciate their cooperation and efforts.”
The board accepted a $10,400 gift from the estate of F. Davis Clark, former Maine District Court judge. Clark, who died at the age of 83 on Nov. 27, made the district the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. Clark did not stipulate how the money should be used. The board agreed to put the money in an interest-earning account until it decides how best to use the judge’s bequest.