Throughout the summer while students get to relax in the sun some teachers have to get together multiple times to conduct teachers negotiation meetings between the West Fargo Education Association (WFEA) and the WFPS school board. The WFEA is the union representing teachers in the district and is a part of a larger state organization called North Dakota United.
These negotiation sessions take place every two years. Assistant superintendent Rachel Agre said the topics that are discussed during the summer meetings range from salary to benefits to other specialized situations.
“During these meeting they discuss topics that concern the majority of the members,” Agre said. “Such as health care, leave time, and evaluation of performance.”
Leave time is a primary topic every negotiation year. Teachers are given two personal days a year to use for any type of leave in addition to 12 sick leave days. Teachers can build up to five personal days, but any days they take beyond what is allotted is unpaid. Science teacher Sara Forness said veteran teachers lose more money being absent than it costs the district to get a substitute.
“If you are a new teacher and you have only been here one to five years your salary is lower than a teacher that has been here twenty five to thirty years,” Forness said. “When you take a personal leave day outside of those two paid personal leave days that is a sizable chunk of change you are going to lose.”
She continued to state how it does not cost the district much to hire a substitute.
“It does not cost the district that much for me to be gone, “Forness stated. “They are paying sub pay for my position to be filled, but I am being docked three times that for taking that extra day.”
English teacher Ruth Joyce said the amount of time off is reasonable in the big picture.
“You have to take into account that teachers have the whole summer off,” Joyce said. “Although who is going to go to a tropical place in the summer?”
The negotiations team hopes to have an agreement in place before teachers return in the fall.