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Educators vote yes; teacher contract moves forward for board approval

HASTINGS — After some information meetings about the tentative contract settlement, about 85 percent of the members of Education MN in Hastings voted "yes." With the approval from Education MN, the contract will be brought to the School Board meeting in April for a vote.

Lisa Hedin, School Board president, said the board's negotiation team has been updated the board as negotiations have progressed, so she has every reason to believe it will be approved at the April meeting.

"From the board's perspective, we were committed to a reasonable contract from the very beginning and we feel like we've come to that place," Hedin said.

While the timeline may have been longer than anticipated, Hedin said she thinks they came to a good conclusion.

Jessie Holm, an Education MN negotiator and HMS teacher, said it was unfortunate that the negotiations dragged on as long as they did, but she is content with the outcome.

"We think it's pretty fair and maintains competitiveness," Holm said.

One of the most important aspects was the teachers maintained their benefits. They also received an average of about 1.25 percent increases for each year in their scheduled salaries. Holm said she didn't think it was an extraordinary package but they felt that most of their priorities were addressed in some sense.

The teachers were able to get a small amount of compensation written into the contract for a collapsed classroom. For example, if a teacher is out sick and a substitute teacher is unavailable, the students would be placed in other classrooms. Prior to the wording in the contract, teachers would not be compensated for the change in their workload to accommodate those children. The contract states teachers would receive a very minimal compensation.

Another change in language was made for teacher prep work time. Holm said there was a compromise in this section.

"I'm not sure if it will do exactly what the teachers are hoping it will," she said.

The average weekly minutes were kept at 230 minutes per five day week. Holm said an addition was made to clarify that there would be no less than 40 minutes of prep time per day. In order to accomodate teacher prep time, there may be some adjustments made to schedules for the 2018-2019 school year.

Holm said the negotiation team was pleased the teachers saw the contract as a solution for the next contract. Data will start being collected from teachers to see what they think of working under the new contract by December and then the team will gear up for negotiations on the 2019-2021 contract.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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