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Marysville School District, teachers reach agreement on 2011-12 contract

MARYSVILLE — One day after a majority of the Marysville Education Association agreed to its terms, the Marysville School District Board of Directors unanimously voted to approve the MEA contract for the 2011-12 school year, thereby ensuring that Marysville's school year will start on Sept. 6.

MEA President Arden Watson and MSD Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland both described their respective organizations' biggest challenges in coming to an agreement as stemming from tough economic times and recent actions by the state Legislature, the latter including a 1.9 percent reduction in state funding for teacher salaries.

"The Legislature declined to reduce the school year or make a state-wide decision," Nyland said. "Therefore, 296 districts across the state have had to negotiate, separately with each bargaining unit, how each district would address the legislative budget cuts."

At the Aug. 31 Marysville School Board meeting during which the contract was approved, Nyland noted the dozens of meetings between the district and the MEA over the summer. He touted the good working relationship between the two groups, whom he described as both striving to "make the best out of a not-good situation."

Watson reported that the MEA voted to ratify the contract by a majority of 93 percent on Aug. 30, with measures such as furlough times for teachers that she described as unprecedented. She echoed Nyland's assurances that the contract nonetheless maintains 1,000 of instruction time for students.

"Collective bargaining has allowed us to work for what's best for the kids at the classroom level," Watson said.

Marysville teachers will be subjected to increases in classroom overloads without increases in previous compensation, as well as an 0.9 percent reduction in pay, as much as $650 for some teachers. Four of the teachers' seven furlough days for the school year will be scheduled in conjunction with holidays such as Thanksgiving, winter break, Presidents' Day weekend and Memorial Day weekend. The first of the other three furlough days is scheduled for Oct. 14.

"During those days, our staff can express their concerns to the Legislature," Nyland said. "In response to concerns we've heard about our early release days, we're moving them from Fridays to Wednesdays and we're shortening the early releases from 150 minutes to 90 minutes. Not only does this provide more instructional time, including a.m. and p.m. kindergarten, but it also encourages students to get lunch at school, which they might have chosen to skip if they were leaving sooner."

Although school lunch prices are not part of the MEA contract, Nyland addressed them on Aug. 31 by explaining that state budget cuts also impacted the cost of school lunches. As such, meal prices will increase for the first time in three years, by 25 cents per meal, while milk prices will stay the same. Chartwells, the food service provider for Marysville, agreed to a $100,000 reduction in their management fee to ensure the continuation of school lunches on a break-even basis.

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