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Teacher's union contract approved by school board

SNOQUALMIE - After several months of negotiation, teachers of the Snoqualmie Valley School District have ratified a contract.

On Sept. 1, the District Board of Directors and the Snoqualmie Education Association agreed to a new three-year labor contract that will boost teachers' salaries by 10 percent over the next three years. Formal bargaining began in April.

Art Galloway, Snoqualmie Education Association president and a social studies and traffic safety teacher at Mount Si High School, said the district and the association worked really hard since last spring to address mutual interests, the main one being a competitive salary that will attract and maintain quality teachers in the Snoqualmie Valley School District.

"Our goal was to become more competitive in neighboring school districts and we made a lot of progress in that and we were really pleased that the district and teachers association both worked hard on that mutual interest," Galloway said. "When someone's looking for a job in Issaquah, Lake Washington, Mercer Island [school districts]-we can attract those people here. [Historically], our salaries have not compared with those places and now our salaries are more competitive. We certainly are a lot closer."

Galloway said the new contract also reduced the amount of out-of-pocket expenses teachers pay for health care.

The new contract includes a 5.5-percent increase in salaries for the 2005-2006 school year and 2.7 percent for the 2006-2007 school year. The third year of the contract will vary somewhat depending on what the state Legislature does for education funding in that year.

The compensation for the 2005-2006 school year includes 1.2 percent from the state and 4.3 percent in local levy dollars. To help fund the first year increase the district will commit approximately $500,000 of the general fund reserve. The contract calls for additional compensation for increasing professional responsibilities.

The new contract also includes increased district contributions of $296,000 to the employee insurance pool over the three-year contract, increased release time or compensation for special education teachers based on class size, caseload and an increase to professional improvement funding that reflects the increase in the size of the teaching staff from three years ago.

School board president Rick Krona said that while salaries are now more competitive, the district will have to deal with a tighter pocketbook.

"We knew this was coming up, we knew we had to get competitive. We are going to have to review the program and shift some priorities. We may be delaying some things and we may be changing how we operate in other ways," Krona said.

The district will now focus on restoring the general reserve balance so funds are available for projects on the horizon such as the third middle school, which will require $1.5 million.

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