FD school board approves salary increases for 3 units

District to create handbook to outline bargaining policies

The Fort Dodge Community School District board approved agreements with three bargaining units at its meeting Monday night.

Agreements were unanimously approved for the Maintenance Employees Bargaining Unit, the Secretarial/Clerical Education Association, and the Maintenance Employees Bargaining Unit — bus drivers division.

House File 291 was signed into law Feb. 17. Under that law, public employee unions are only allowed to negotiate base wages.

In the agreements, the following base wages were agreed to for 2017-18:

– Custodial and maintenance employees will have a base pay range between $21.96 and $23.80 per hour, an increase of 2.24 percent.

– Secretaries and clerks will have a base pay of $13.03 per hour, an increase of 2.61 percent.

– Bus drivers will have a base pay of $19.45 per hour, an increase of 2.69 percent.

“The district was extremely impressed with the thoughtfulness and efficiency at which the different negotiating groups came to settlement and in understanding that language that currently resided in the negotiated agreements from previous years would be rolled over into a handbook,” Rob Hughes, FDCSD assistant superintendent said. “The staff was very receptive and understanding. We appreciate their professionalism and willingness to work with this to find agreements.”

Bill Adson, one of the unit leaders for the Maintenance Employees Bargaining Unit, was pleased with the agreement.

“I felt it was a fair settlement,” Adson said. “Both parties were happy with the agreement.”

Agreements between the Fort Dodge Education Association and the Teacher Associate Bargaining Unit have not yet been reached.

Districtwide handbook

The Fort Dodge district aims to create a universal handbook that will encompass each of the five bargaining units and the policies that pertain to each group.

Hughes presented information relating to the handbook Monday night.

About 40 staff members from the Fort Dodge schools were in attendance.

“Our intent is to incorporate as many of those mutually understood policies into one resource,” Hughes said.

Those policies include items such as early retirement, pay scales, leaves of absence, and insurance.

Hughes said many of those policies will not change.

“For example, pay scales has come up as a concern,” Hughes said. “The district has no intent of changing pay scales or the process in which someone can advance on the pay scale. Oftentimes that’s moving from a bachelor’s degree to a master’s degree.”

Stu Cochrane, school board president, said the handbook is designed to have information on policies in one book that is easily accessed by employees in the district.

“The handbook is an effort to be as transparent as we can be,” Cochrane said. “The district is creating a handbook where a lot of the terms and conditions will carry over from what had been collective bargaining agreements into a handbook. “

Cochrane said the board wasn’t in support of the House File 291 law.

“We didn’t pass this bill,” he said. “We didn’t want this bill. We didn’t ask for this bill. In fact our association, Iowa Association of School Boards, didn’t lobby for this bill.”

Cochrane said he believes the handbook will improve how policies are interpreted.

“We believe when it’s done it’s going to be uniform, efficient, easy to understand,” Cochrane said. “It’s going to work. I am not kidding you when I say I think you’re going to like it. Will you like every aspect of it? I don’t know. Did you like every aspect of the collective bargaining agreement language? Probably not. But that’s our endeavor is to create a document that all of you believe is fair.”

Cochrane said he wants Fort Dodge to remain an attractive area for educators.

“We really want Fort Dodge to be a destination district for talented educators,” Cochrane said. “It’s not going to be changing. You’re not going to see changes to insurance. Severance will not be called severance, but it’s not going away. Some of these things might look different, but they are going to stay. Things that you care about are going to stay. It’s important to us that you like to be here. We need you here.”

Hughes said each of the groups will have a chance to review and offer input for the handbook. It will not be an opportunity to negotiate, according to Hughes.

“We want representation from all groups if possible,” Hughes said. “This is for both management side and employee side to make sure language is clear and articulate. It’s not the time to negotiate benefits.”

The handbook is anticipated to be finalized in May.