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School board approves one-year union contract extension, with raises for teachers and staff

KPEA President LaDawn Druce (left) and KPESA President Susan Litwiniak (on Zoom) during a January ad hoc committee meeting.
Riley Board
/
KDLL
KPEA President LaDawn Druce (left) and KPESA President Susan Litwiniak (on Zoom) during a January ad hoc committee meeting.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Board of Education ratified a contract with the unions that represent teachers and school support staff. The parties agreed on a one-year contract extension, with raises for teachers and staff, rather than a traditional three-year contract.

The new agreement includes a 3.5% raise for teachers and a 6% raise for support staff, which go into effect July 1. Other components of the agreement include a $200 increase in the district’s healthcare contributions per-employee, and a permanent $5-per-hour raise for school nurses.

The Kenai Peninsula Education Association, or KPEA, represents certified educators, while support staff are represented by the Kenai Peninsula Educational Support Association, or KPESA.

During the school board’s meeting Monday night, KPEA president LaDawn Druce explained the goals of the one-year extension, citing comments from Board President Zen Kelly.

“January 8, Mr. Kelly, President Kelly, you said in the school board meeting, I believe I quote, I tried to get it exact, “A fair and just contract to retain teachers early in the process,”’ she said. “I want you to know that was our focus with this one-year agreement. It was to retain the teachers we had in the process and to do it quickly as contacts are getting ready to be issued.”

Druce said 74% of the KPEA members who voted, 60% of the union, supported the contract extension and its components. She also thanked Human Resources Director Nate Crabtree for his collaborative attitude during the negotiation process.

KPESA President Susanna Litwiniak also praised the negotiations, and the resulting Memorandums of Agreement, or MOAs.

“These MOAs are proof that when we work together for what’s best for our students, we can achieve great things,” she said.

But she also mentioned the district's funding challenges, related to a stagnant amount of per-student funding from the state, called the Base Student Allocation, or BSA.

“They’re a great start to achieving the goals of retaining and attracting quality educators to our district, and now I have high hopes that we can continue working together on our shared legislative priorities, to have a meaningful increase to the Base Student Allocation and a return to a defined benefit plan for public employees,” Litwiniak said.

The negotiators chose an extension over a new three-year contract because of prevailing uncertainties about state education funding, including the district’s own looming $13 million deficit. Other Alaska districts, including Anchorage, have chosen this approach.

Several board members said they were pleased with the contracts and the collaborative nature of the negotiations.

The KPESA contract was approved unanimously, while three members abstained from the KPEA vote because their spouses are certified teachers. The rest of the board voted in favor.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.
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