New Plymouth School District negotiations meeting

New Plymouth School District Trustees meet with officials from the New Plymouth Education Association to discuss details of their collective bargaining agreement on Aug. 13. Clockwise from left, NPEA negotiating team members Cherry Mecket, Pierrette Madrid and Mae Holdy, School District Clerk Shannon Reece, Superintendent David Sotutu, and Board Trustees Mark Haws and Shannon Mendive.

NEW PLYMOUTH — Despite the difficult landscape ahead for Pilgrim teachers, the New Plymouth School Board and the New Plymouth Education Association ironed out the details of their collective bargaining agreement during a negotiations meeting at the District Office on Aug. 13.

Year-over-year changes to New Plymouth’s agreement include, but aren’t limited to:

• Like neighboring school districts, New Plymouth certified staff will retain their salary rates for 2019-2020. Salaries begin at $38,500-$42,500, going up to $58,886 based on the number of years they have met evaluation goals. One-time stipends for certain staff on the bottom steps of the salary schedule will be provided, equating to a 1% increase for them.

• Health insurance costs for employees’ policies increased 8.8%, a cost the District has agreed to absorb

Pierrette Madrid, a member of Education Association’s negotiating team, pointed out during the meeting that there was a “small, but vocal” group of five teachers who expressed disapproval with school starting in Level 1 of the District’s leveled operation plan. Payette County is under a ‘red’ health alert for COVID-19 from Southwest District Health.

“It’s a small group, but I think they are gonna be kind of vocal,” said Madrid. “I haven’t seen it, but there’s been some posts on social media … I said something like, ‘It reflects negatively on the school district,’ and their response to me was, ‘It’s not expected to leak beyond the school district.’ I said, ‘okay.’”

The topic of mask requirements also came up during the meeting; Madrid said a teacher survey found teachers wish to see the District be ‘firmer’ on mask requirements.

To this, Trustee Mark Haws said the wording of the District’s mask policy for the school year requires students to wear masks but that parents are concerned with how to mask up their youngest students in elementary levels.

“I don’t know the solution, I think we’ll all have to figure that out together,” said Haws. “The teachers especially are going to be on the front lines, the administrators behind them and the superintendent behind them.”

Haws also suggested using the “go sit in the corner” approach when a student refuses masks, as a means of keeping their peers safe

“I tend to be an optimist that human beings can change,” he said. “Maybe what we have to do is teach these kids it’s in their best interest, in society’s best interest… It may be a teaching thing, is what I’m saying.”

Haws also noted plexiglass barriers between students has been considered, but nothing has been decided on that. Teachers will have barriers around their desks.

Madrid compared the mask requirement to other dress code requirements, saying they’re similar in nature. She also noted that Parma is opening in level one of its operating plan.

“I think we’re going to be successful,” said Madrid, saying teachers should set an example by wearing masks.

Superintendent David Sotutu expressed that he was glad the negotiations went well.

In the end, Haws made a point of expressing appreciation for New Plymouth teachers.

“We really, really appreciate our teachers,” he said. “I feel, really, really good about where we’re at as a school district in this community. I think we’re moving forward, I think we’re putting the past behind us. I see room for optimism.”

Ratification is the final step before the agreement is official; This is set to take place at the School Board’s next regular meeting on Sept. 14.

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