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By ZACHARY HALASCHAK
Daily News Staff Writer
It’s a done deal.
In a 6-0 vote, the Ketchikan School Board on Thursday ratified the tentative agreement between the district and Ketchikan Education Association after nearly two years of protracted negotiations.
KEA had previously ratified the contract agreement on Nov. 21, and after the School Board’s vote, the agreement is now settled.
Dozens of KEA members filled the Assembly chambers for Thursday’s special meeting. At the outset of the meeting during the public comment portion, KEA President Meredith Lundamo thanked all of the parties involved for getting to this point.
“While neither side gets exactly what they want in negotiations, the members of KEA voted to accept this TA because it represents a compromise of both parties,” Lundamo said. “… I’m truly proud of this (School) Board, KEA and this community for their support and commitment to education in Ketchikan.
Lundamo also thanked School Board President Matt Eisenhower and Human Resources Director Rick Rafter — the two members of the district’s negotiating team — for their efforts.
Following the public comment period, the School Board convened a closed-
door executive session to discuss the contract. Teachers and interested parties huddled in the hallway as they awaited the School Board to come back into open session.
After about 30 minutes the School Board reconvened.
School Board Member Bridget Mattson then made a motion to approve the tentative agreement. School Board Member Glen Thompson, though, asked for the School Board to postpone voting on the measure until the next meeting, noting that he wished the public had more time to review it.
He pointed out that a speaker during the public comment portion had said that he had not heard much of the details of the agreement.
“One of the speakers who came to the podium made a very cogent point that the public hasn’t had the opportunity to review or weigh in on the contract. It just hit our website today,” Thompson said. “… I think it would behoove us to get some public input on that and waiting a couple weeks won’t make that much difference.”
Assembly Member Diane Gubatayao commented on Thompson’s proposed amendment to the motion and noted that because she has been out of town recently she consulted with Eisenhower and confirmed that details about the contract had been made public in the press.
“That kind of reassured me that the information was out there, not just on our website,” Gubatayao said.
In terms of salary, the contract gives teachers a 2-percent salary increase each year they stay in the district through 2020. The plan also halves monthly insurance premiums for educators.
The monthly insurance premiums to be paid by the teachers per month under the old contract were capped at:
• Employee: $235.
• Employee and spouse/employee and children: $377.
• Family: $589.
The monthly insurance premiums to be paid by the teachers per month under the new TA are capped at:
• Employee: $110.
• Employee and spouse/employee and children: $181.
• Family: $287.
Deductibles remain the same under the new contract.
Thompson, whose motion failed 5-1, ultimately ended up voting for the contract, but took some time during Thursday’s meeting to explain trepidations he had with the agreement.
Thompson said that in the short term the contract appears to be financially sustainable, but worried about the long-term costs. He said that, “it will depend on a significant increase in local funding for schools.”
“If that funding increase is not materialized, … the terms of this agreement will cause someone to lose their job,” Thompson said.
“I will not oppose their effort, even though there are legitimate concerns whether the funds will be there to implement it,” Thompson said. “It will be up to those who negotiated this contract to find the funding to implement it.”
Ultimately, the motion to approve the contract passed 6-0, as former School Board Member Kim Hodne submitted his resignation on Wednesday.
Following the passage, the Daily News spoke with Eisenhower who said he was pleased that the contract is now official.
“I’m feeling relieved, and I still — like I’ve said all along — I think about the student, I think about the classroom, I think about the different children (in) different age groups, and what this means for them to have professional, competent, loving teachers in (those) classrooms; it’s the recipe for success,” Eisenhower said.
KEA Vice President Sarah Campbell also said she was happy about the outcome of Thursday’s special meeting.
“Delighted. This is a fair contract, I think it does a lot to include education in Ketchikan,” Campbell said. “… This is a win for the community of Ketchikan.”
According to district data, for fiscal year 2019 the agreement will require an additional $1,171,497 from the Borough Assembly, $681,260 of which is for retrograde pay. The School Board will have to request those funds from the borough.
The school reserve fund currently has a balance of about $4 million.
The next time the School Board is scheduled to meet is for another special meeting being convened on Dec. 4 to discuss the final report of the investigation into former teacher Douglas Edwards who was charged with six counts of sexual abuse of a minor back in June. Edwards has pleaded not guilty.