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The Schuyler Community Schools Board of Education recently reached an agreement with the Schuyler Education Association on its Staff Master Agreement for the 2020-21 school year.

The agreement is largely unchanged from past years, with the exception of insurance rates, which increased 7 percent. Overall, the changes in next year’s contract were predominantly cosmetic.

“Typically, the things that change are base salary and our insurance rates,” said SCS Superintendent Dan Hoesing said. “The overall increase (of the package given to teachers) was 3.94 percent, with salary and benefits combined.”

The agreement was reached quickly, with only two meetings needed to hash out details of the contract. According to Hoesing, the first meeting was more of an introductory meeting, while the second meeting largely hashed out the terms of the new agreement. The sticking points were about the seven-year cap on new hires, an increase in base salary and compensation for staff providing plans for long-term substitute teachers.

Each of those issues were settled within the second meeting, with the cap remaining, base salary being bumped to $36,250 and staff working with long-term substitutes receiving a compensation of $17.50 per day for 10 days or until the substitute is brought on-board.

Hoesing said that the relationship between the SEA and the board was professional and the quick negotiations being a result of cooler heads in the room prevailing over those who may have had issues.

“It was a real smooth process,” Hoesing said. “They have a real professional relationship and the board knows their numbers and the staff comes in and the staff understands. They can bring issues that are bargainable, but the only ones that came this year were base salary (and) insurance. They had asked the board to look at giving more years of experience, but when they saw what it cost, the teachers removed that from their request.”

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Members of the SEA agreed. Mark Wemhoff, a teacher at Schuyler Central High School and the main negotiator for the SEA, said that reaching the contract was relatively easy and that there were few major issues working with the board.

"(It) has been really good working with these board members," Wemhoff said. "They're pretty understanding (and) they know that we're in a school that has challenges. We don't obviously get what we put in for right away, but we come to a point where we both think it's fair for the teachers."

In addition to the new agreement between the board and the SEA, the incentive program for the 2019-20 school year was also agreed upon. The two sides agreed on three new separate incentive extras: a Wellness Day initiative that allows staff members to exchange a day of paid time off for a membership to Anytime Fitness, a workshop stipend that provides $50 for any staff member who conducts a workshop during professional development and a compensation plan for teachers who work with parents participating in the Family Literacy Grant Program.

Hoesing sees no real issues on the horizon as the district moves on into another successful year. He noted the successful work that has gone into reaching these agreements and smoothing over the differences that may come from collective bargaining.

“Our strategic plan comes from the ground up,” Hoesing said. “It’s a plan that is put together by teachers and some of those issues are resolved in planning, so teachers have a voice. When I first came, the calendar was a big issue, but the teachers sat down with us outside of that negotiated agreement and we looked at that calendar for the year. Some of those issues that could prevent a negotiated agreement are taken care of outside of that."

Zach Roth is a reporter for the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at zachary.roth@lee.net.

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Zach Roth is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at zachary.roth@lee.net.

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