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Teaching contract talks nearing end

Representatives of the Fargo Education Association and School Board are close to reaching a contract agreement for the next two years. The two bodies are about $200 apart on the base that is used to determine teachers' salaries, but otherwise app...

Representatives of the Fargo Education Association and School Board are close to reaching a contract agreement for the next two years.

The two bodies are about $200 apart on the base that is used to determine teachers' salaries, but otherwise appear to agree on the contract terms.

"We anticipate one final meeting," School Board member Dan Fremling said.

The salary proposal receiving the most attention is a 190-day contract that allows teachers to be paid their daily rate for up to two voluntary days of approved professional development or planning time.

Fargo teachers are now paid $100 a day for district-approved experiences that occur outside contract terms.

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Both sides agreed teachers should be paid their regular rate - an average of $250 a day - for extra work.

This becomes even more important as the district prepares for shifting to a consistent grade configuration in 2006. Many teachers will spend extra days planning and meeting with new colleagues.

But FEA members fear the board is using the extra professional development payments to lower teachers' contracted salaries.

"I don't have a problem with the idea (behind the proposal)," said Lee Myxter, one of the FEA negotiators. "But it takes money away from everybody and makes it available to some people, maybe."

The School Board's proposal adds $800 a year to the base salary that is used to determine teachers' salaries. That base would be $26,587 in 2005-06 and $27,387 in 2006-07.

That amount is then multiplied by a factor based on teachers' experience and education. For example, a first-year teacher with a bachelor's degree would make $30,575. The average salary would be $46,685.

The average increase would be 4.65 percent the first year and 4.5 percent the second year, said Dan Huffman, business manager for the Fargo School District. Individual teachers could see bigger or smaller increases depending on experience and education. Total cost to the district would be about $3.2 million, with about $300,000 set aside for extra professional development days.

The union, which represents about 830 teachers, wants board members to add $1,000 to the base salary in the first year of the contract. That would cost the district about $300,000 more for a total of $3.5 million.

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Board members said they'd consider that, but teachers then need to agree to a 192-day contract. FEA representatives said teachers wouldn't ratify that. Negotiators will meet again April 29.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erin Hemme Froslie at (701) 241-5534

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