Dillingham teacher's union, district open contract negotiations

Mar 8, 2016

The Dillingham City School District and the Dillingham Education Association, the local teacher’s union, have begun negotiations on a new contract.

Representatives from each side sat down March 2 in the first meeting of a bargaining process that’s expected to take months. Each came armed with their first proposal, essentially a list of their wildest dreams in terms of pay, benefits, leave and disciplinary procedures for certified teachers.

The current agreement went into effect in 2013. The salary schedule begins at $47,000 for a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree, and climbs to nearly $84,000 for a 17-year-veteran with an advanced degree.

The district’s proposal would freeze that salary schedule for the next three years, with a caveat that if the state raises the Base Student Allocation, the salaries could be re-negotiated. The union, on the other hand, has proposed a 3 percent pay increase at every level.

The negotiations are happening in the midst of a grim financial outlook, as the district tries to close a budget gap of nearly $450,000.

The school district wants another three-year contract, while the union would make it a one-year contract.

The proposals also include language related to a dispute the union has had with the district in recent months, over flights that were purchased for certain teachers as a hiring incentive in the summer of 2014. In the future, the district wants to be able to offer signing bonuses at the discretion of the school board. The union, for their part, would amend the contract to clarify that "No monetary or non-monetary inducements may be offered to staff members or prospective staff members covered by this agreement, except those that are contained herein."

In the face of a 36 percent hike in health insurance premiums next year, the district wants to cap the amount it pays per month on health insurance.

The district and union are also at odds over the definition of a “partnership” in the sick leave policy, which allows employees to take leave for the illness or death of an immediate family member. The district would remove language that says “same-sex partners will be considered immediate family” on the grounds that those partnerships are not currently recognized by Alaska state law. The union wants to keep same-sex partners in the contract, and also add “domestic partners.”

The Dillingham Education Association represents more than 40 certified teachers in the district, which includes classroom teachers as well as special educators, reading specialists, and coordinators.

The negotiations are expected to continue through the summer, as each side reworks its proposal until they reach a contract that both sides can accept.