Rapid City Area Schools teachers at the top of the salary schedule will receive a 2 percent pay increase this academic year.
A contract guaranteeing the raise was approved Monday by the Board of Education during a regular meeting, bringing an end to bargaining talks that the district and the teacher's union — the Rapid City Education Association — entered into only a few months earlier. Teacher and union President Sue Podoll said that the tone of negotiations improved markedly from last year.
“It was a great negotiation season this year simply because we engaged in what’s called the IBB, or the interest-based bargaining process," Podoll said.
The bargaining style, which emphasizes the discussion of workplace concerns instead of demands, is said by its supporters to be more collaborative than the traditional process. The Rapid City Fire Department has in the past reached contract agreements using the strategy.
School spokesperson Katy Urban said Tuesday that school board members were similarly pleased with the way contract talks unfolded.
The swift and seemingly amicable ratification of the contract stands in stark contrast to the dispute that erupted over the one that covered last school year. At that time, the union had sought tiered pay increases of up to $2,000 for teachers in their first six years on the job, plus $700 pay increases for those beyond their sixth year. That proposal would have cost more than $700,000.
The district, meanwhile, favored giving a $700 raise to each of the roughly 1,000 teachers, librarians, counselors and therapists that the union represents.
But the two sides failed to reach an agreement headed into the 2018-19 school year, leading to teachers working without a contract until the state Department of Labor and Regulation sided with the district in January. The school board approved a contract a few days later.
The new contract, which is set to take effect July 1, will move all teachers hired prior to the 2018-19 school year up one notch on the salary schedule. Occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech pathologists at the top of their pay scales will get a 2 percent pay bump as well.
Contracts covering other school employees also passed Monday. Workers at the top of the food service wage schedule will earn a 2 percent increase this year, while managers above the scale will earn 1.5 percent more.
Secretarial and clerical staff throughout the pay scale will see a 1 percent wage bump this year.
District-wide, however, health insurance costs are going up for the second year in a row. Both the district and its employees will contribute 4.2 percent more for health insurance each month beginning this year.
Under that arrangement, a single nine-month employee would pay a total of $118 per month for medical insurance with the district making up $633. For a family plan, the employee would spend $817 a month, the district $1,400.
This will be the first year that school employees have the option to carry dental insurance separate from their medical plans.
RCAS employs about 1,800 people, 1,200 of whom are teachers and paraprofessionals. The average teacher salary for Rapid City public schools during the 2017-18 school year — the most recent for which data was available — was $50,946, according to a report from the State Department of Education.
— Contact Matt Guerry at firstname.lastname@example.org