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Troy School Board negotiating terms of six employee contracts

| October 13, 2006 12:00 AM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

Troy School Board this year will negotiate six employee contracts, including one for its 40 teachers.

The board during its Tuesday night meeting also discussed offering retirement incentives for the district's eight teachers with more than 30 years on the job.

Contracts expiring at the end of the school year include a two-year agreement with teachers who belong to the Troy Education Association, and a one-year pact with the Classified School Employees Association, which includes the district's 40 custodians, aides and bus drivers.

The board also will negotiate contracts for superintendent Brady Selle, Troy High School principal Rodney Smith, Morrison Elementary principal Lance Pearson and district clerk Mary Brown. Selle, who is in his fifth year with the district and would like to remain, currently has a three-year agreement. Smith, Pearson and Brown are working under one-year contracts.

The board during its meeting voted to begin negotiations with teachers. It will involve reviewing salaries, which start at $23,803. The district's veteran teachers make $30,000 to $45,000 annually, Selle said.

"We need to look hard at local schools and salary schedules," trustee Steve Garrett told fellow school board members.

The union supports increasing entry-level pay but understands possible complications, said TEA President Glenn Herman, a special education teacher at the high school.

"It would be great if we can do that," Herman said. "It could be hard because everything is based on that base."

If a teacher takes, for example, a coaching position, the pay is determined from a percentage of that starting pay.

"Let's say I'm a head coach and get 12 percent of the base . . . If you raise the base, everybody (gets increases)," he said.

Garrett suggested looking at teaching salaries at Lincoln County's other two school districts in Libby and Eureka.

"I'd rather be on top of the pack, but I'm not convinced we can do that," he said.

Libby Public Schools teachers in May approved a contract that increased entry-level pay for teachers from $23,534 to $25,180.

Troy teachers once again hope to get a multi-year contact, Herman said.

"We always do that," he said. "If you listen to what they said, the district is in a downsizing process. As you downsize, if you know what your salary and benefit package is, then you have a better idea of what to do (budget-wise)."

The school board during the meeting learned the district has 439 students this year. That's 27 fewer than last year. The high school has 169 students, but within four years, is expected to have 125 students. That's based on the number of students in fifth through eighth grades.

"We had a lot of kids who moved out of the district. Several freshmen," Selle said. "Some, we don't know where they went."

Fewer students means less funding for the district.

"At best guess, our funding will be flat for the next year," Selle said. "We have six contracts to negotiate for next year and I expect we would want to give some increases."

School board members on the negotiation committee also will discuss retirement incentives for veteran teachers.

"You have mixed feelings sometimes because veteran teachers are our best and you don't want to get rid of all teachers at the same time. If someone is on the edge and can't decide, maybe we can (make them an offer)," Selle said.

Two to three years ago, the board offered to pay for longtime teachers' health insurance until they reached retirement age. Medicare would then kick in. No one took the offer.