June 1, 2011

School board settles with teachers on new salaries

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

Teachers at McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 will be receiving a $1,500 increase in their base salaries this coming school year following the school board’s ratification of a new two-year agreement last Tuesday.
“This was one of the shortest negotiation processes that I have been involved with here,” stated Steve Holen, district superintendent. “The teachers came into this negotiation process with a very cooperative spirit.”
According to Holen, the new salary schedule provides for a base salary for teachers of $36,100 and also provides for step increases ranging from $750 to $950.
“With the new base increase as well as the step increases, the annual salary increases for the district’s teaching staff will range from $2,250 to $2,450,” states Holen.
According to Holen, the Watford City Education Association, which represented the district’s teaching staff in the negotiations, initially asked for a $2,500 increase in base salary.
“The school board countered that initial request with a $1,000 increase in base salary and the two parties worked toward the compromise agreement,” stated Holen.
As part of the new agreement the district also agreed to pay 17.8 percent of the teacher’s salary towards their retirement system. Currently, the district pays both the teacher’s and the district’s share of the retirement cost.
“Because of changes made during  the past legislative session, in 2012 the teacher’s retirement system benefits will increase four percent with the district’s costs and the teacher’s share each going up two percent,” stated Holen. “That will be a substantial increase and is going to be something that will have to be negotiated.”
As part of the district’s compensation package, the school board also approved increasing its contribution towards health insurance from $6,400 to $6,850 per employee.
“The increase basically covers the cost of a single health insurance plan as well as dental and vision,” stated  Holen.
During Tuesday night’s meeting the board also approved salary increases ranging from five to six percent for the district’s administrative group. Under the new salary plan, Holen’s salary as district superintendent will increase from $95,400 to $101,000 for a 12-month contract. Jay Diede’s salary as high school principal will increase from $89,380 to $94,743 for an 11-month contract, while Sherry Lervick’s salary as elementary school principal will increase from $74,968 to $79,466 for a 10-month contract.
The board also approved the increase of Jim Gefroh’s salary as transportation director from $50,240 to $52,750 for a 10-month contract and Pat Harildstad’s salary as the district secretary from $38,100 to $40,600 for a 12-month contract.
The board also approved hiring Becky Smith as the district’s business manager for a 12-month contract at $53,000.