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After 806 days of operating under an expired contract, West Shore School District and the West Shore Education Association approved a new teachers' contract Monday night.

The new contract includes salary increases for five of its six years, a change in health care coverage for spouses and a nod to fears about the so-called Cadillac Tax, which would be issued in 2020 if the federal government believes the health care benefits are excessive.

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For nearly three years, the district and the education association had been going back and forth with negotiations surrounding the teacher contract. The previous contract expired Aug. 31, 2014, and negotiations began in January 2014.

On Nov. 2, the union and the district announced they had reached a tentative agreement, but they did not release details, and both sides agreed not to comment to the media about the agreement until it had been voted in.

The school board voted on the contract at its meeting Thursday, where the West Shore Education Association's 576 members also reviewed the agreement before voting Monday. The association represents teachers, counselors, home and school visitors, librarians and psychologists.

The contract will run retroactively from the 2014-15 school year and expire June 30, 2020.

According to West Shore Education Association President Kevin Downs, both sides made concessions. In terms of health care, teachers and other staff in the union wanted spouses to be able to stay on their health care even if they had existing coverage, whereas the district wanted the spouses to use their own coverage.

To compromise, spouses may remain on the medical plan but will pay a surcharge. Beginning in January, they will pay $100 per month, and the amount will increase in the coming years.

Salary was another sticking point for both sides, specifically when raises would occur. Downs said the district wanted to keep salaries down, but the association and the district were able to agree on a salary schedule that works for everyone.

According to a news release sent by West Shore Education Association, the new bargaining agreement includes overall salary increases for the following school years:

  • 2014-15: Salary freeze
  • 2015-16: 2.01 percent
  • 2016-17: 2.25 percent
  • 2017-18: 2.5 percent
  • 2018-19: 2.75 percent
  • 2019-20: 2.5 percent

Newly hired teachers will earn the same salary of $49,325 for the first four years of the contract. In the 2018-19 school year, they will earn an additional $170, and in the following year their salary will increase again by $785.

Downs said the district and the education association agreed to language that worked for both parties related to the Cadillac Tax, which would not affect the district until 2023, after this contract has expired. Essentially, the education association will absorb the Cadillac Tax up to a certain monetary amount or they will make changes to the plan to get under the tax.

He explained the only way the tax would come into play during the term of this contract is if there is another freeze in negotiations once the six-year contract ends in 2020.

“While it’s been a long bargaining process, we appreciate the district bargaining team’s willingness to work with us in the past month to reach a contract before the end of the year," Downs said in the news release. He later added in an interview, "I wouldn’t say anyone is jumping up and down, but we were able to meet each other across that, so we found a place where both are satisfied with the results."

Ryan Argot, the director of federal programs for West Shore School District, said the district is pleased with the results.

"The district is pleased that the association has approved the contract that was approved by the board last week," Argot said. "We look forward to continued positive relationships with all employee groups."

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