ONAWAY - Support staff at Onaway Area Community Schools will get a raise in their salaries under a new contract approved by the board of education.
At their Oct. 9 meeting, board members voted to approve a two-year contract with unionized support staff employees, Superintendent Rod Fullerton said. The contract, which had been approved by the union prior to the meeting, gives employees a 75-cent hourly raise, their first in seven years.
Board members also are considering how to handle teacher layoffs and recall policies, now that state laws forbid such rules from collective bargaining between the district and teacher's union, Fullerton said.
Tammy Bassett, support staff union president, said she appreciated the board's decision.
"We were glad the board was able to agree with this," she said.
Altogether, the new contract will cost about $54,000 more than the previous package for custodians, bus drivers, paraprofessionals and other support staff, Fullerton said. Some of that cost will be offset by a state-mandated change in how much the district pays for employee health insurance premiums. Using what's known as a "hard cap," the district can't pay more than $15,500 in premiums for a family plan, $11,000 for a two-person plan and $5,500 for an individual.
While the new contract ultimately will cost the district an additional $20,000 over its lifetime, it's a worthwhile expense, Fullerton said. By keeping support staff wages competitive, the district can attract and keep quality employees.
"As we start experiencing retirements, and just normal attrition, we have to be able to offer competitive wages to bring in replacements as well," he said.
Recent changes in state law forbid the district and teacher's union from determining teacher layoff and recall policy through collective bargaining, Fullerton said. Instead, the board will enact policies based on recommendations from a committee within the next few months. The committee consists of Fullerton, board members Mike Hart and Pam Loveless, and district Principals Mindy Horn and Marty Mix.
"Now that's considered a prohibited subject in bargaining. We have to have procedures and policies to outline how that's going to happen," he said.
Teachers are welcome to have a say in the board's decision, as is any member of the public, Fullerton said. However, they have less control over the policies than when their union could negotiate on them.
"The board is open and willing to any suggestions toward the policy, but in the end of the process, they are the ones that determine the policies," he said.
Kymberli Wregglesworth, Onaway Federation of Teachers president and high school teacher, said she's still learning about the subject, but didn't question the board's actions.
"We're not even able to negotiate this any more, so they're in their right to come up with a policy at this point," she said.
In other business, board members approved buying an off-lease copy machine for the elementary office for $1,800 from Williams Office Equipment in Cheboygan.
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5688.