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D-26, teachers union reach tentative deal

Published: Friday, Aug. 29, 2014 4:21 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Aug. 29, 2014 11:59 p.m. CDT

CARY – A tentative three-year contract between District 26 and its teachers union includes inflationary salary increases for teachers and a slightly longer school day for students, both parties announced Friday.

The 185 members from the Cary Education Association on Wednesday ratified the tentative deal, effective August 2014 through August 2017. Board members will take a final vote on the agreement during a special meeting Tuesday, when full details of the new deal will be released.

“Recognizing the board’s concerns about state funding and their dedication to rebuilding fund balances, the teachers ratified the proposed contract,” said CEA co-presidents Chris Maher and Dana Cook in a joint statement.

“Our hope is that during the next negotiations, the collective bargaining agreement will reflect compensation and benefits that will better help us ‘recruit and retain highly-qualified educators,’ as stated within the district’s strategic plan.”

Negotiations between the two parties began earlier this spring. The board requested a federal mediator toward the beginning of August to help finalize contract talks, union members said Friday.

The tentative contract nets teachers at the K-8 district annual increases – tied to inflation – to their base salaries. For this school year, teachers will receive a 1.7 percent increase and another 1.5 percent increase the following year.

Both parties agreed that salary increases in the final year have to be between 1.3 and 4 percent, since the Consumer Price Index is not yet known for the 2016-17 school year.

Calling the agreement a compromise, Board President Jason Larry said in a statement that members are confident the inflationary increases ensure the district can live within its financial means.

“We are all living in economically challenging times, particularly for local governments and school districts, as state funding continues to be a wild card,” Larry said.

The agreement also extends students’ school day by 30 minutes once they return from winter break Jan. 5. Both parties agreed on the added instructional time after the district last year restored gym, music and art classes.

As part of budget cuts in 2010, the district removed music and art classes at all grade levels and physical education at the elementary schools.

The new deal also provides retiring teachers with a 5 percent increase in their last year of employment but limits the district’s participation in a state early retirement program to one teacher each year.

Despite the changes with the contract, the district’s insurance program will remain the same, both parties said. The board will continue to pay 50 percent of the cost for single coverage and between 10 and 40 percent of the district’s family premium. The district contribution varies based on a teacher’s years of service.

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