At the August 2014 school board meeting, the board approved a new negotiated agreement with the Milford Education Association (MEA) and the Milford Classified Employees Association (MCEA). We also approved salary schedules and raises for other staff.
The previous agreement with the MEA was approved 4 years ago. That agreement provided for step and cost of living raises for the first three years. A fourth year was then added that provided for a freeze on both steps and cost of living increases for last year. This agreement to freeze compensation saved the district hundreds of thousands of dollars in an uncertain economic time, helping stabilize our budget as the economy equalized and changes to the state system were implemented.
The new agreement provides steps plus a cost of living raise of 2% the first year and 1.75% each of years two and three. The average increase is appr. 3.75-4%, when steps are included. Other contracts and salary schedules were adjusted at this same average level to keep all our employees on the same salary growth level. This contract adjustment will keep Milford’s teaching/support salaries in the middle of the pack in the local area, while administrative ranges are still low compared to most other districts.
Other key language in the contract includes keeping health care at the same level – 80% board/20% employee – with increase sharing over 12%, and further definition around teacher evaluations and ratings, especially as this relates to reduction-in-force. This is a very important area; although the state has implemented a new evaluation process for all employees, there has been little guidance re: interpreting the evaluation levels. Our new agreement eliminates seniority as the primary consideration for determining reduction-in-force, replacing it with teacher evaluations.
It’s important to note that teachers are absorbing more of their retirement costs. Previously, 10% of their salary would go to the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS). From 2013-2016, an additional 1% per year is being added to reach 14%. While this money will “come back” to teachers in retirement, the increased reduction does have an immediate effect on their standard of living.
While I and fellow board member Gary Knepp expressed our frustration with the traditional step system used throughout Ohio to compensate teachers – indeed, which had been law for many, many years – this is the system that is currently accepted, and one which is hard to replace quickly. However, the Association did agree to form a committee along with administration and staff members to examine performance-based compensation system options over the next few years. I am very excited about this and hopeful we can develop a system that is fair and satisfactory to all parties. There is no guarantee we will be able to do so, or that the MEA will accept such a system; but we are one of few districts taking the step at this point to explore our options. Our goal is to make this a collaborative process so we have a team approach from the beginning, hopefully resulting in a system everyone can agree on.
Our administrative staff is already on a performance-based system, and has been for several years. Managers are provided a pool of money by the board, equal to a certain percent, which is the “not to exceed” amount. They then allocate these funds to their direct reports based on performance. The system has worked very well in the past few years it has been used (administrators were also on a freeze last year).
The following are the main points all board members agreed on when approving the new contracts, and the primary reasons I voted yes:
- Milford’s staff has done and continues to do a phenomenal job with student achievement. This year’s (unofficial until September) results show Milford is definitely moving in the right direction – and this is despite changes in standards, curriculum, testing, and of course in the midst of a terrible winter.
- Our budget is stable due to very conservative fiscal management, renegotiating several agreements and changing other approaches over the past few years to result in significantly more “local revenue” than in the past (we now bring in appr. 9.5% from “other” sources, versus less than 2% in 2006).
- We have been able to stay “in the black” for a number of years, and expect to remain so for a few more, stretching our levy dollars at least four years versus the three promised when the last levy passed.
- The Association agreed to a committee to explore performance-based compensation. While there are no guarantees, the openness to explore a brand-new approach as a partnership between teachers, other staff and administration is very encouraging.