Ashland Schools Employees Reach Tentative Agreement – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

The three-year deal would include cost-of-living adjustments, healthcare and other benefits for classified personnel

After a long stalemate, classified employees of the Ashland School District have reached a tentative collective agreement with administrators.

Lisa March, president of the Ashland chapter of the Oregon School Employees Association, and Superintendent Samuel Bogdanove both briefed the Mail Tribune on the developments, which took shape last week.

“I’m thrilled – and that’s a big relief. It’s been a long, hard fight since April last year,” said March, who is also a district custodian. “My members are super excited. text messages, emails and phone calls I just walked into my office and there’s a bunch of flowers here.

In an email, Bogdanove said the district is “pleased” to have reached a tentative agreement, which faces a vote by union members and school board approval.

“The agreement, if ratified, provides competitive compensation and benefits to help us recruit and retain an incredible group of employees who are making a huge difference for our children,” Bogdanove wrote. “I am grateful for the hard work and cooperation of everyone involved in the negotiation process. »

Terms of agreement

If approved, the deal would last for three years, providing classified employees with numerous benefits in what has been described as one of the toughest times in K-12 education, due to the pandemic. .

Highlights of the tentative agreement provided by the district and the union show that most classified employees would receive a 2.25% wage increase for the 2021-22 school year, retroactive to July 1, 2021 – date on which the last agreement expired. After this year, they would get salary increases of 2.5% for the school years until 2024.

Meanwhile, other positions, such as teacher’s aides or school crossing guards, would get a $1.25 or $1 per hour raise, respectively, because those jobs have been identified by the district as difficult to fill or not competitive with surrounding districts.

The deal would restructure the district’s longevity model — the length of time Ashland School District employees stay on the job. For all ranked employees entitled to this benefit, their earned longevity will be incorporated into hourly wages and used when calculating all hourly wages, including overtime, overtime, and time off.

Other benefits of the tentative agreement include long-term disability insurance for all employees working 20 hours or more per week; a 403(b) tax annuity program for employees working 20 hours or more per week; and Indigenous Peoples Day as a paid holiday.

Becky Sniffen, a classified employee who is a library assistant at Helman Elementary School, said it’s only fair that employees like her benefit from Indigenous Peoples Day because certified employees already do.

Sniffen also spoke about some of the other parts of the deal that she was “very relieved” were agreed to, including the 403(b) program.

“I think when you’re among the lowest paid employees in any organization, being able to have employer support while you’re trying to save money is a huge thing,” Sniffen said.

She also hopes positive information will come out of a provision of the tentative agreement, which calls for a third-party study comparing pay and benefits from other school districts to Ashland.

March praised her fellow classified employees when she announced that a tentative agreement had been reached.

“Everything we did to get the word out worked; speaking at school board meetings, writing letters, wearing name tags, speaking to the community, posting on social media and of course our information picket on Presidents Day,” she wrote to them in an email. mail. “We, your negotiating team, succeeded because you made your demands loud and clear.”

Mediation

Sniffen, who was not part of the mediation, which took place virtually, believed picketing on Presidents Day was an important part of contract negotiations.

“Having that kind of support was really nice and I think it really lifted our negotiating team and validated their efforts,” Sniffen said. “So when they went to that mediation table, they felt stronger.”

March’s praise to classified employees omitted the story of the work it took classified employees to negotiate a contract with the district, which March detailed in an interview with the Mail Tribune.

The day after classified personnel picketed district offices during the Presidents’ Day holiday, mediation rounds began. The session was virtual and lasted a marathon 12.5 hours, according to March.

“It was grueling, but it was also exciting, because in the aftermath of that rally, we saw the district doing moves that they had never done before – like, a lot of moving,” he said. she declared. “They even sent us a proposal that morning before we started, so we started mediation with a new proposal from them to review and work from there.”

However, the union did not accept the first offer the district made to them.

“We sent it back with like ‘we’ll take this, but we want it too,'” March said. “There were moves and transactions.”

She noted that this was the first time anyone had done any mediation virtually.

“We spent all day in a Zoom room with our own team — I never saw the other party the whole time,” March said. “The mediator was going back and forth between the two rooms with information.”

Ten hours after the start of the mediation, a “verbal agreement in principle” was reached.

“We were just jumping and screaming,” March said. “Our lawyer said, ‘a verbal TA is binding, but it’s better to have it signed.’ What do you want? We said, ‘Absolutely, we want signatures.’

But even after 90 minutes, that superintendent signing hasn’t come, according to March. The mediator said Bogdanove wanted to review the document.

“(It was) frustrating because we just spent all day working on it,” March said. “We didn’t receive the signature until the following afternoon.”

Nonetheless, the tentative agreement was signed after clearing a minor hurdle over some of the document’s language, according to March. She notified her classified staff on February 25.

Reflecting on the negotiations, March doesn’t think the district took classified employees seriously.

“I can’t speak for them, but their actions and words all showed a lack of respect for us as serious negotiators,” March said.

But, she acknowledged, the district came and made a deal. She attributed it to mediation.

“It’s an expensive process and it’s a shame we had to come to this, but the mediation was very beneficial because the way we were negotiating wasn’t working; it was a very dysfunctional process,” March said. “Mediation really helps us organize ourselves better and work with each other.”

Contact journalist Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno