Board and Teachers Clash on School Calendar Length

"I feel like students lose in this contract,” board member Ron Fedorchak said.

Early release days, raises for teachers and a committee to look at merit-based pay came out of negotiations between the Board of Education and Mehlville National Education Association (NEA).

The annual negotiation period develops a memorandum of understanding between teachers and the district regarding pay and improvements to the district.

The decision was met with some board opposition, but passed with a 5-2 vote on Thursday. Ron Fedorchak and Board President Venki Palamand voted against the motion.  

Ron Fedorchak said the agreement was “historic,” because of the progress toward a merit-based compensation plan and commended administration and staff for reaching a common ground.

to 180 days, the national average. Missouri requires a minimum of 174 teacher-student contact days, which is what Mehlville currently has.

“The reason I am against this plan is everybody knows, my campaign was on students first and I feel like students lose in this contract,” he said. “One, we didn’t get the 180 days to get to the national average and then secondly, we lost 2.5 days going back to the old early release (days).”

But board member Elaine Powers, who was on the negotiating team along with Palamand and Mark Stoner, said students came first with the agreement.

“Respectfully I disagree with (Fedorchak’s comment) because I think there’s a lot of things in there that benefit students,” she said. “When we invest in professional development for our teachers in a meaningful way, that makes it possible for them to get the kind of development they need. That’s investing in our kids and there’s tremendous benefit to that.”

Fedorchak and Palamand also opposed approving the it did not have 180 days.

Fedorchak motioned to amend the calendar to add six days, which would cost $408,960 by his calculations. He said he would utilize substitute teachers in place of the district’s current staff because of the teacher agreement’s 174-school day provision. No one seconded the motion.

Mehlville NEA Chief Negotiator Michael Ghormley said negotiations on 180 school days broke down because of the cost involved with the extra six days.

If districts attend more school than the minimum 174 days, they do not get any state funding for those extra days, Palamand said. The lack of state funding greatly increases the cost of the extra school days.

Ghormley and other NEA negotiators wanted teachers to be compensated their daily rate for the six additional days.  The daily rate of a teacher is their salary divided by 196 contract days, which includes school days, professional development and paid holidays.

A first-year Mehlville teacher’s daily rate is approximately $182. The highest step on the salary schedule has an daily rate of $393. 

Members of the board initially did not offer any additional compensation for the extra days, and then offered less than the daily rate in negotiations.

“We were not against adding days,” Ghormley said. “We just wanted to get paid our daily rate for it. If you’re going to pay a bus driver their normal rate for another day, why not us?”

Classified staff, such as bus drivers, are compensated on an hourly rate, rather than salary.

Ghormley said a longer school year was suggested at last year’s discussions, but the two sides could not reach an agreement.

“What they did instead, and then they made professional development for each teacher that they would be able to use and get paid for,” he said.

Surveys to teachers showed they felt the professional development requirements were not clear under the new system. Ghormley said the educators would receive more structured development with early release days.

The agreement also created a committee to research a merit-based compensation program for teachers. The Ladue School District has a diluted merit-based salary system, and is one of the only schools in Missouri that pays teachers primarily on how well they teach.

Over the 2012-2013 school year, a committee of board members, teachers and administrators are tasked with researching strategies on performance-based pay.

The next year, the committee will develop a program and implement a feasibility study, with a final report and recommendation coming no later than March 1, 2014.

Teachers are currently compensated on a step-based salary schedule. According to the memorandum of understanding, teachers will receive one step raises for the 2012-2013 school year. The raise will equate to 5 percent over two years. 

“Going into negotiations, we knew what (the district) balances were and they can afford to do some things, they just have to decide what they want to spend their money on,” Ghormley said.

Teachers approved the agreement by 93 percent. 


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