Ferndale School District, teachers’ union reach accord; school likely to resume Tuesday

Students in the Ferndale School District are closer to going back to school.

After negotiating until after midnight Friday, Sept. 10, the district and the teachers’ union reached a tentative agreement that would end a strike and start the school year on Tuesday.

The union unanimously approved the three-year contract at a meeting Saturday morning; the district school board will vote on it Monday morning, Superintendent Linda Quinn said. The current contract expired Aug. 31.

The union voted to strike Tuesday, which canceled class Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and this coming Monday. The canceled days will be made up by adding one school day to a four-day weekend in February and three days to the end of the school year, Quinn said.

Quinn was unable to calculate the estimated cost of the contract based on the agreement reached early Saturday morning.

District officials have estimated that the contract could cost between $2.5 and $3 million more than the current contract, depending on which proposals were adopted.

Quinn and Tracie Morris, president of the Ferndale Education Association, said the agreement was reached with both sides making concessions on major sticking points in the negotiations.

“We feel it’s a fair agreement that we can live with for three years,” Morris said. “I feel very strongly that the process was well worth it.”

The district will allow the teachers to vote on health care plans and then accept the one receiving a majority vote, according to the school district’s web site.

It also adopted FEA’s proposal to give teachers 10 early-release days, which will be spread out over the school year. Also accepted was FEA’s proposal to increase elementary school teachers’ preparation time by 30 minutes per week.

The union made concessions on the issue of compensation, Quinn said. Teachers’ salaries are based on a state pay schedule, with an additional 15 percent allocated locally.

The union wanted the local allocation to increase to 16 percent in the 2010-2011 school year, 17 percent during the second year of the contract, and 19.65 percent for the final year.

The district offered 15.65 percent for the first year, 16.15 for the second, and 19.65 for the final year; the union accepted this offer in brokering the agreement early Saturday morning, Quinn said.

The agreement keeps the teachers at their current salaries for the first year of the contract, but compensates them for the state eliminating one day’s worth of pay.

“At the eleventh hour, they said ‘OK we get it,’ ” Quinn said. “It’s not that they don’t deserve it — we just don’t have it.”

Quinn said she felt good about the agreement.

“I feel good about where we ended up,” Quinn said. “It is a fiscally responsible contract given our very best info about what we know. We need to be a district that lives on our paycheck.”

Morris and Quinn thanked the patience of Ferndale community members during the strike.

“This was a disruption,” Quinn said. “I think it had to happen. I guess through this process I have come to a deeper appreciation of the Ferndale community. I would apologize to the community but also thank them for their patience.”