Abbey Marshall | Managing Editor
There appears to be harmony between the Mason Education Association and the Mason City School board as the two recently came to an agreement that was overwhelmingly ratified by teachers.
As the previous teacher contract crept towards its expiration date in June, the MEA and School Board initiated negotiations and collective bargaining agreements. The contract was officially approved by the Board on April 26.
Ninety-two percent of the staff voted to approve the contract on April 19, which results in a raise each of the next three years, alterations to health care, and changes to the calendar.
The most visible differences between this year and next is the insertion of more professional development for a total of six teacher work days, according to MEA President Maria Mueller.
“Students will notice some changes in the school calendar,” Mueller said. “There has been some additional professional work days woven into the year. The intention is to allow teachers to be able to pause and hone their craft and to pause and reflect. The year will be broken up more.”
In addition to more days off to rest for students, two of the days will be used to create learning opportunities outside the classroom. The MEA and Board titled these “Personal Learning Days”, which are scheduled for November 21, 2016 and February 17, 2017.
“Two of those days–which is something that will be new–are going to be called Personal Learning Days for students,” Mueller said. “They will be days when students will be assigned to be working on things outside of class. Personal Learning Days are intended to, as the name suggests, make learning personal but also bigger than the classroom.”
Because of the insertion of these days, the 2016-2017 school year will begin on Monday rather than Tuesday, as it was previously scheduled.
In addition to more time for professional development, teachers will receive a 2.5 percent raise.
“We appreciate what that says to us: the Board and the administration value our work,” Mueller said. “The contract shapes (the teachers’) work and their lives because whatever ultimately gets approved has such a personal impact on each member of our association.”
Ultimately, however, the agreement does not just affect staff and students, Mueller said.
“The conversations that occur in a negotiation is ultimately reflective of our democracy,” Mueller said. “This is the ultimate in people working together to shape a community. The negotiated contract doesn’t just impact the teachers and the Board and the dollars, it impacts everyone in the community.”
Originally published in The Chronicle on May 13, 2016.