Effingham Daily News
ALTAMONT — Altamont Board of Education and the Altamont Education Association have come to an impasse in teacher contract negotiations.
The teacher contracts expired Aug. 15, and the AEA and the board met on Aug. 16 for discussions focused on teacher pay and adjustments to the schedule.
At issue is the new class schedule, which would change junior high and high school classes from block scheduling to a seven-period day, reducing teacher prep time. Also at issue is a potential pay freeze for teachers that has been a contention since the two groups first met in February.
AEA President Mike Delaney said the results of the last meeting have left teachers wondering about how much the board is willing to negotiate.
"They just wanted us to do concessions and wanted to implement the new schedule without any bargaining," he said. "We weren't ready to do that."
The results of the meeting have left both groups at an impasse. The AEA and the school board have both produced final offers and neither have been accepted.
Superintendent Jeff Fritchtnitch said although the negotiations are private, he looked forward to finding an agreement between the administration and teachers.
"The board has taken the position that we're not going to bargain in
public," he said. "We're at an impasse. We have submitted our final offers. We're just waiting for an opportunity to negotiate."
Delaney said does not believe the district is willing to negotiate with teachers about pay and prep periods. Even though the Altamont administration had previously agreed to a pay freeze in April, Delaney said the teachers would be unwilling to take such a freeze.
"We're just not willing to do that. We're not, because of some of the
spending that's going on in this district and because of the huge
spending and the new positions for administrators," he said, referring to a new assistant principal position created, as well as scheduled raises to base pay and pensions for some administrators. He also referred to an increase in health insurance benefits that the district has said were made to align with the Affordable Care Act.
Delaney, however, believes scheduled raises for teachers is needed.
"We think it's money well spent for the teachers and the employees in the classroom who are teaching the students."
While Delaney said he was optimistic that a deal could still be made, he knows it needs to happen soon.
"At some point here real quick, we're going to be able to sit down and
have the board ready to negotiate and have them really be ready to
participate with us," Delaney said. "If they're all ready to participate, I think we can find some common ground. At some point, they're either going to have to negotiate or we're going to have to make some job action happen."
Fritchtnitch said he was also looking forward to bringing the board and the AEA together to complete negotiations soon.
"At this point, we're still hopeful, so we're going to have to see when
the leaders of the association and the leaders of the board are
coming back to the table," he said.
Jackson Adams can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 131, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.