Board hears of teacher handbook changes

School Board
Pete Temple
Express Associate Editor

     About 30 teachers and staff members attended the work session of the Monticello School Board Wednesday, May 10 in order to learn more about what kinds of changes they can expect to their benefits.

     The answer is: not many.

     The concerns arose because of a new Iowa state law that eliminated the collective bargaining rights of teacher’s unions for everything except base salary.

     The work session, then, was to review a tentative District Teacher Handbook, going over the salary and benefits proposed by the district.

     Monticello Community School District Superintendent Brian Jaeger stated that the information offered at the meeting was primarily for the board, and that only board members would be allowed to ask questions.

     “Tonight is really about the board having a discussion about what is in the handbook and the language changes that are in there,” Jaeger said. “When something goes from a contract format to a handbook format, there have to be some changes in the language.”

     One change involved benefits, and reads as follows:

     “The district will contribute an amount equal to the single premium per month for the current established group health plan for each full-time employee. The plan is currently the Alliance Select $1,000 deductible plan.”

     The monthly benefit premium plan that had been in place is no longer available, Jaeger said.

     Also, the base salary that has been proposed is still under negotiation between the district and the Monticello Education Association (MEA).

     Jaeger also proposed a change in the district’s policy that would provide compensation for National Board Certification, providing a stipend for teachers that have qualified. He proposed $1,000 per year for NBC-qualified teachers, with a district cap of $10,000 per year.

     Overall, Jaeger said he believed the changes should have little effect on the working relationship between the district and MEA. He also said he hopes to get the handbook approved at the May 22 regular board meeting.

     “Not a lot has been changed. There are a lot of things that look identical (to the previous contract),” Jaeger said. “I hope this will ease people’s anxiety about this change.”

     Shannon Guyer, chief negotiator for the MEA, said the organization appreciates that not many changes were made.

     “The board did leave most of what was in the professional negotiations agreement intact when placing the items in the handbook,” Guyer said through email. “Except for our insurance benefit, most employee benefits will look similar next year.

     “Our primary goal is, and has always been, to attract and retain the highest quality teachers to Monticello. I am confident we will continue to work with Dr. Jaeger and our school board to ensure this continues.”

     Also at the work session, curriculum director Gretchen Kriegel offered recommendations to the school board that were listed by the School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC). Those fell into three categories: Market the Good Stuff, Make the Usage of Data Public, and Meaningful Communication.

     Prior to the work session, the board held a brief special meeting during which it approved several personnel changes. Those included:

     • the resignations of Carrie Steger as fifth-grade teacher, Dianna Rucker as reading specialist, and Haley Lansing as Level I special education teacher.

     • the appointments of Brittany Ahrendsen as sixth-grade teacher, Jamie Vroegh as seventh-grade English teacher, and Jim Reuter as temporary custodian.


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