PALMER — The Mat-Su Education Association and Mat-Su Borough School District announced a tentative agreement for the collective bargaining agreement for Mat-Su teachers. The tentative contract covers 2019-2021 with pay raises of two percent per year for teachers. After over 18 months without a contract, MSEA President Dianne Shibe and MSBSD Superintendent Dr. Randy Trani were happy to announce the contract agreement.

“The difference that will be made from this contract is that the district and the association have come together and we are willing to be collaborative together and I think that is going to make a big difference in the few years to come,” said Shibe. “It makes our members confident in what their association is able to do once the members are involved in the association, that is absolutely essential that every voice that we were able to gather and become members. That is the reason that we were able to be successful and reach this agreement.”

The most recent proposal by MSEA called for a two percent increase for three years between 2020-2022 and the district’s offer proposed a 1.75 percent increase for three years between 2021-2023 with a $1,500 bonus. The MSEA conducted a vote of members on whether or not to strike over the last two weeks and received an affirmative response from 85 percent of the 93 percent of MSEA membership that voted.

“What I’m most excited about is that we’ve come up with a solution of compromise over a long period of negotiations. I’m happy that we’ve been able to come to resolution and that we can focus on the thing that’s most important which is educating kids,” said Dr. Trani.

The tentative agreement settled on by negotiators from MSEA and MSBSD retroactively provides a two percent raise for 2019. Shibe said that she felt her membership would vote to ratify the agreement, but was not able to disclose details of the health insurance portion of the agreement.

“I think it was important just to start a dialogue about health care. Health care is an issue across the entire country and it definitely is an issue here in Alaska and I think that’s one of the important takeaways that we got from this is it’s a chance to talk differently about health care and just see if there’s any way to make it better for both sides,” said Trani.

Following the MSEA vote to strike after over 18 months without a contract, the MSBSD School Board held a meeting in executive session on Tuesday prior to the Wednesday press conference to announce the agreement. MSEA must now conduct a ratification vote among members that Shibe expressed she believes will pass within the next two weeks. Following the MSEA ratification, the School Board will then examine ratification details and also take a vote to ratify the agreement.

“I think it gave focus to the district as to the sincerity that their employees felt about the need to be respected and compensated by use of this contract,” said Shibe of last week’s strike vote. “The most important thing is that it provides for them the knowledge that they are valued and respected by their employer. Furthermore it allows them to concentrate on teaching their students, they’re not distracted by the negotiation process and that’s what teachers want is to be able to focus on their students and be able to stay in the classroom. Nobody ever wanted to strike.”

After taking the job as MSBSD Superintendent over the Summer, Trani is happy to have the contract settled already.

“I certainly hope that it’s a long term difference maker,” said Trani. “Let’s get on the next negotiation right now. Let’s start ironing some things out so we don’t do this. Dianne’s right, teachers want to be teachers and the district wants the teachers to be teachers so if we can avoid getting in this situation again I hope that this helps us do that by settling it now and moving forward collaboratively.”

The next meetings scheduled for the MSBSD School Board will be on October 7 and 21.

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