A new teacher contract that includes a 2 percent pay raise was approved unanimously by the Mandan School Board on Monday.

The deal was reached after about a month of negotiations between a committee for Mandan Education Association and representatives from the board. The nearly 300-member organization of teachers and school support staff voted Sunday to ratify the proposed contract.

"I'm satisfied that I think it was a fair agreement," said Travis Coyle, head negotiator for the MEA and biology and human anatomy teacher at Mandan High School.

Under the new two-year contract, teachers will receive raises ranging from $500 to $1,400. The negotiated agreement also includes salary increases for classroom instructors who have reached a certain level of experience and have gained advanced education degrees, which can range from $1,000 to $1,500, based upon their education.

Coyle said the MEA initially proposed teachers receive $400 more for each of the two years, in addition to raises for 32 teachers who have reached the end of the salary schedule. The board offered to keep teacher pay where it's at and offer no increases. 

"We came in hoping for more," said Coyle, adding that both sides had a total of four meetings. "Certainly, we gave in, as well, to reach an agreement."

"We've seen insurance increases almost every year, and so it's important we get some compensation so nobody goes backwards," said Jennifer Conlon, president of the MEA, adding she felt the negotiations went "really well."

"We were not comfortable not giving some compensation to our most educated and most experienced teachers, and so that was really the main focus," she said.

Mandan Public Schools' new agreement comes at a time when school districts are wrestling with no increased funding from the state for K-12 education and teachers are expecting a boost in pay. For Mandan, the salary increases will cost an estimated $1,286,493 over the next two years.

MPS Superintendent Mike Bitz expressed some concern over the district's budget and flat funding from the state. He said the district may have to dip into its savings.

"I think the big difference between now and two years ago — two years ago the state was giving us a 3 percent increase each year. When you get a 3 percent increase each year, it’s easy to pass that onto your staff. When you’re being frozen, there is nothing to pass on," Bitz said.

(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)

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