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Teachers get first pay raise in years

Teachers in the Perham-Dent School District can look forward to a pay increase this year and next.

School board members approved a new teachers’ contract at a special meeting last week.

Salaries will go up by 3 percent this school year and 3 percent next school year for all teachers, including preschool and Area Learning Center instructors.

“Three percent was acceptable to our membership,” said Darren Glynn, the president of the Perham Education Association, in an email to the Focus. “Our goal was to be competitive with neighboring districts, and although we took a step in the right direction … we still have some work to do.”

Superintendent Mitch Anderson explained that, when compared to other similar districts in recent years, Perham’s starting salaries have been “non-competitive.”

Anderson said the district’s teachers experienced a “soft freeze” in pay from 2011 to 2013, but now, “we’re paying people what they deserve. We can’t make it all up at once, but we’re trying to get back to being competitive in salary and health (insurance benefits).”

In a new addition to the contract, preschool teachers will be included in the same health insurance plan as K-12 teachers.

Teachers will have the option to take one of three single-coverage plans at no extra cost. A family coverage plan is still extra.

“After seeing a 20 percent increase in health insurance costs over the past five years, a small increase in insurance contributions was welcomed,” said Glynn.

“We are also pleased that our coaches, directors, and extra-curricular advisers received a bump in salary,” he wrote. “We felt it was important to try and improve their salary schedules to compete with the industry average... Perham is a progressive community that prides itself on being a ‘School of Champions.’ These people as well as our teachers help make this statement a reality, and should be compensated adequately.”

The new contract also restores a twice-per-year lane change request policy from previous years.

The recent board-approved levy of $300 per student did not have much impact on this contract, according to Anderson. No funds from that levy will even be available to the district this school year.

“The school board and the teacher negotiators both worked together for the betterment of the staff and working conditions at Perham schools,” wrote Glynn. “In the end, we both want the same goals: the best teachers working with the best students, and to fulfill our district’s promise to provide the best for all so that all may be their best.”

Elizabeth Huwe, Perham Focus