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Lakewood teachers: Everybody got something in new contract

HEBRON – Everyone received more money from the newly approved Lakewood School District teachers contract, but not necessarily a raise.

“What they were looking for is for everybody to get something,” said Lakewood Superintendent Jay Gault.

Lakewood School Board members unanimously approved a one-year teachers contract at their August 10 meeting that includes no base pay raises, but employees will receive step increases and those without step increases will receive a onetime only $1,500 stipend. Gault explained that the stipend is not similar to a base pay raise because the stipend is only offered once, whereby a base pay raise is permanent.

Gault said annual step increases generally range from $1,200 to $1,700 and $1,500 seemed like a good compromise.

Lakewood has five salary schedules for teachers: BA degree, five years experience, Masters degree, Masters plus 15 graduate credit hours and Masters plus 30 graduate credit hours. Each year of teaching experience represents a “step” on that specific salary schedule. Step increases occur annually through the first 12 years of each salary schedule and then intermittently up through year 27. Teachers can move to a higher salary schedule first by getting five years of experience and thereafter by getting more education.

A base pay raise increases every level on all five salary schedules. Lakewood teachers haven’t had a base raise since the 2009 school year.

Gault said changes were also made to teachers’ insurance plans. “We know it’s going to save us a lot,” he said, although he wasn’t ready to state a specific amount. Gault said teachers will pay higher deductibles, and will pay more out of pocket expenses, and pay more for office visits and prescriptions. He said the district offers a base plan, and teachers may opt to pay into a “buy-up” plan with enhanced coverage, but the district does not pay into the buy-up plan. Teachers may also opt out of the insurance plan entirely if they believe they can find a better plan elsewhere.

Board President Judy White said the negotiations with the Lakewood Teachers Association, following a couple preliminary meetings, were relatively brief. “It took about three hours,” she said. White was clear that the $1,500 stipend is not a minimum for all step increases. If a teacher’s step increase is less than $1,500, that’s what the teacher will receive – not $1,500. “The LTA is very happy with (the contract), and the district is happy, too,” she said. White said the contract offers some cost saving measures for the district.

In other district news:

• Gault said he hadn’t heard anything from Eric Zimmer, founder and CEO of the Dublin, based Tipping Point Renewable Energy, who is working to provide the district with solar power, but he really doesn’t expect to hear from him for a while. Board members gave Zimmer until Jan. 12, 2012 to present the board with more information. Gault said the board gave Zimmer a time limit so the board won’t “wait around for years” for Zimmer to present a viable plan for solar power. Previously, Zimmer told board members that the district would have no up front or maintenance costs and could save $650,000 over the next 20 years if the company is allowed to install a solar power system on campus. “We get paid by producing power,” he said. “If we don’t produce power, we don’t get paid,” Zimmer said a 1.2-megawatt system could produce 85 to 90 percent of the power that all the district buildings – except the administration building and Hebron Elementary School require. AEP would supply the remaining 10 to 15 percent. “You want to stay where you’re still buying from AEP,” he said.

• It’s too soon to know an exact number, but Gault said “a lot” of raffle tickets are being sold for a chance to win a $20,000 camper. Lakewood Athletic Director Bo Hansen proposed the raffle to raise the money needed to transport student athletes to and from away games. Board members tasked Hansen and a committee to find alternatives to charging students for athletic transportation.

The winner will be announced at the Boosters Night at the Races event Dec. 3. Raffle tickets cost $20 each with the goal being to raise enough money to purchase the camper and to cover transportation costs to all athletic events.

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