Educators look to create new contract as the school year begins.

Published: Sep. 3, 2022 at 4:27 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Educators and administration for the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District began the first bargaining session for a new contract on Wednesday, August 31. The bargaining took place at the school district administrative building.

Since June, local educators “have been working in dynamic status quo,” according to Sandi Ryan, the president of the Fairbanks Education Association. Ryan went on to explain how staff in the district have been operating under the established agreement of the prior contract which ended in June of 2022. According to Ryan this has made the staff “antsy” which pulls their attention away from focusing on the students.

At the first bargaining session, there were five main issues discusses by the two sides which included:

- The number of preparation minutes teachers have for work

- Substitutes and compensation for teachers who are subbing for other teachers during both prep periods and teaching periods.

- Workers compensation and the definition of assault in the contract.

- Classroom safety issues and school board policies on discipline, and what happens if an assault occurs during work

- Grading policies, particularly grading deadlines.

On the topic of prep time, the Fairbanks Education Association (FEA) and the school district administration reached an impasse. The FEA proposed contract language that would make for unequal but equitable prep time, as they believe teachers at different levels of education need different amounts of time to prepare for their duties. School district administration however rejected the proposal since the administration wants all teachers across the district to have an equal amount of prep time.

Grading policies were also tied into discussions about prep time, as was compensation in the form of extended or new prep periods when the teacher has had a class or prep period disrupted by the need to take on additional students due to staffing shortages.

On the topic of assault in the workplace, the FEA has requested adding the legal definition to the next contract; however the school district administration has raised concerns about using the legal definition, and would prefer to use an alternative definition for contract purposes.

For other issues related to safety, the FEA proposed many changes to the contract focusing on monetary security, infectious illness and physical safety. The school district administration, however, provided a counter-proposal which removed the language regarding monetary security, and reduced the language for infectious illness and physical safety.

On the topic of classroom disruptions caused by disciplinary issues, Campbell Longworth, a music teacher at Ryan Middle School said “[his] principal gave some figures about how many expulsions or discipline issues that she had to deal with and it was more than the previous combined 10 or 15 years of teaching that she has done, just last year.” Longworth went on to say that when these issues arise, it disrupts the educational process for both students and staff.

Longworth’s coworker, Allison Curry, an English teacher at Ryan Middle School said that for her the biggest issue involved salaries. Curry claims that for the new contract, the district isn’t posting any increase in payment which means that teachers and their families will be bringing home less money relative to the cost of living.

This was the first time that the two groups have met for bargaining since May of 2022. More meetings are expected in the coming weeks.

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