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Helmut Schmidt, Published June 07 2013

FEA overwhelmingly ratifies teacher contract

FARGO – The Fargo Education Association has overwhelmingly ratified the teachers’ contract finalized in talks last week with the school board.

FEA spokeswoman Kim Belgarde said Friday that about 98 percent of teachers’ union members had voted to approve the contract.

The school board has scheduled a vote on the contract for its meeting Tuesday.

“We’re very pleased. We felt like we both compromised and came to an agreeable settlement,” said Belgarde, who finished her term as president of the FEA with the close of contract negotiations.

“Both sides are very pleased that we didn’t have to drag it out into summer, and the teachers will be starting the school year with a contract,” Belgarde said.

The two-year contract calls for adding $350 to teachers’ base pay in the first year, plus $900 to each cell of the salary matrix, which distributes pay based on teacher seniority and education level.

The lowest-paid teacher will get $38,045 a year, and the highest-paid teacher $72,961 per year.

For the 2014-15 school year, $1,245 will be added to the base pay of teachers, plus $900 to each cell in the salary matrix.

The lowest-paid teacher will get $39,290, and the highest-paid will get $75,377 in the contract’s second year.

The contract also lays out how a mediation panel will be formed if future contract talks go to impasse, and creates another level in the teacher contract grievance process that allows for issues to be taken to non-binding arbitration.

Board President Jim Johnson couldn’t be reached Friday afternoon for comment on the FEA vote.

Belgarde said FEA and school board representatives will form a panel to work on contract issues, including revising the salary matrix, between now and the opening of talks for the next contract.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583