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Associated Press, Published August 13 2013

Claiming pay too low, Dickinson teachers sue over contract dispute

DICKINSON, N.D. — A dispute over contracts for school teachers in Dickinson has landed in court.

Southwest District Judge Dan Greenwood has ordered the school board not to enforce a Sept. 3 deadline for teachers to sign a two-year contract or be released from their jobs. He also said the district should issue a contract for the upcoming school year only. He has scheduled a Sept. 23 hearing on the matter.

The main issue of contention in the contract dispute is when the district will reach the level of $40,000 in base pay for teachers — this school year or next. The board's final offer was for a first-year contract of $38,400 for new teachers, rising to $40,200 in the second year.

The school board unilaterally issued two-year contracts in July after the two sides failed to reach a negotiated agreement and the matter went to a state fact-finding commission, which sided with the board's final offer.

The 231 teachers represented by the Dickinson Education Association then sued the board, saying a two-year contract would be to their disadvantage.

"We have had cases before where school districts have unilaterally issued contracts, but not for two years. And we just think it's a huge disadvantage to the teachers," Michael Geiermann, who represents the Dickinson Education Association, told KXMB-TV. "As we all know, the cost of living is greater, prices are higher. Teachers didn't want to have themselves in a situation where a deal they make this year won't be good next year."

School board attorney Rachel Bruner-Kaufman recommended the board delay any action until the court hearing, according to The Bismarck Tribune.