Hamilton Southeastern Schools negotiating teams have reached a tentative agreement for a new teacher contract, which was presented to the HSE Board of Trustees during a public hearing Nov. 2.
The new one-year contract includes raises in base pay for all levels with additional compensation to recognize educational achievements. The proposed new salary scale ranges from $48,500 to $91,801, compared to the current range of $44,074 to $87,530.
The draft contract also revamps paid leave to provide more flexibility. Teachers still get 14 days of paid time off, but instead of four personal days and 10 sick days, they have seven days of each.
There was no comment from those in the audience during the public hearing, which was a required step before the board’s scheduled vote to ratify the contract Nov. 8.
Interim Superintendent Matt Kegley presented the new contract to the board and noted that the interest-based bargaining method made for more productive negotiations. Interest-based bargaining is a collaborative approach where those involved work together to find solutions that benefit everyone.
Kegley said negotiators for the district and Hamilton Southeastern Education Association recognized that competitive salaries would help the district retain teachers and attract new staff. The negotiation teams not only increased the starting salary for new teachers, he said, they also adjusted the salary schedule to provide additional compensation to teachers who have achieved higher levels of education — a master’s degree, for example.
“We’re really excited about understanding and knowing that that the salaries are super competitive … and hope that continues to lead to folks wanting to come and join HSE,” he said.
If approved on Nov. 8, the new contract will be retroactive to July 1 and is effective for only this school year.
“And then we get to do this process all over again next fall,” Kegley said. “Hopefully a little sooner in the calendar than we did this year.”
There was a question from the board about how the results of the Nov. 7 referendum vote might affect the new contract. Kegley said the negotiated raises would remain, even if the referendum fails.
“It’s not referendum-dependent because the fact of the matter is, if we have to make budget cuts related to if the referendum wouldn’t pass, then those likely could mean staffing losses and not necessarily wage reductions,” he said. “We all hope that we’re successful (Nov. 7), and that would go a long, long way to continue in our goals in this district. But if, for example, we have to raise class sizes — well, we also need the folks that are going to be here to also be compensated because they’re likely taking on additional work as well.”
The school district’s operating referendum calls for a reduced tax rate of up to .1995 cents per $100 assessed value, providing annual school funding of an estimated $24 million. The current referendum, approved by voters in 2016, expires at the end of this year. Through the 2016 referendum, property owners have paid .2275 cents per $100 assessed value.