School board finalizes educators' contracts

Oct 8, 2019

Contracts with teachers and support staff in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District were approved at Monday night's board of education meeting, though with one dissenting vote on each agreement.
    The vote got just a bit tense when five votes were needed to pass the teachers' contract, and two of the seven board members had to abstain from voting, as their partners were teachers.
    The teachers' contract passed 5 to 1 and the support staff contract 7 to 1. Both dissenting votes were made by board member Greg Madden of Soldotna.
    After nearly two years of negotiations, deals were reached last month, just hours before educators were to walk out on strike. School Board President Penny Vadla was appreciative of all the work that's been done to reach the agreements.
    “All of us who are part of this, really care about what happens in our schools,” said Vadla. “And this is going to be tough going forward, not just because of this, but because of the state of our state. And so I hope that we can continue to get those voices out to the people who sometimes matter more and more than even we do sitting up here.”
    Anne McCabe is the president of the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association, which represents teachers aides and other education support staff.
    “I can tell you that we were all shocked when the proposal came across the desk that night. And in a delighted way, the collective sigh of relief was audible. And so I don't I don't know who decided to go back and and work on the proposal from May and adjust it, but a heartfelt sincere thank you from KPESA and I encourage you all to vote yes.”
    Boardmember Mike Illg agreed.
    “I too, would like to say the collective sigh of relief, I think was heard and felt district wide. So I think that was a great statement. And with the approval of this, I'm voting yes. And then, of course, the other contract agreement,” Illg said. “I always like to look for the gems in the wreckage sometimes. And I am confident hopeful that our employees will pay more attention to health care utilization and services and ways that we can save money not just what the district offers and what the health care plan offers, but, but just just being smart shoppers and smart consumers never stopping yourself from getting the medical treatment that you need. But know that the costs are going to continue to go out. And we all need to do our part to ensure that it's sustainable body.”
    Teacher Paul Marks told the school board that he believed in the process.
    “I had such faith in you and in our negotiators, and in your negotiating team, that we would get to a reasonable agreement. That doesn't mean you know, we weren't getting prepared or I wasn't getting prepared and getting a little terrified,” Marks said. “But, I'm so glad that we're working together. I'm so glad that this is moving forward. There were compromises made by both sides. Hopefully we'll be able to make we'll be able to move forward and make it so when it comes up again in another like what did you say like a year? We can we can move forward positively. We can work together and try to make it make certain that we're able to retain the excellent staff, that we have not keep bleeding out, to be able to attract new wonderful people and make it so our students have a safe place to go. Thank you so much.”
    Details of the contract can be found on the websites for the unions and the school district, but the main sticking point was affordable health care coverage.