Creative, collaborative negotiations between the Winona Education Association and Winona Area Public Schools have resulted in a tentative agreement on a contract that both sides say will help keep dedicated and passionate educators in district classrooms for years to come.
The WEA will meet Monday to discuss and have a ratification vote on the agreement, which will help the district recruit and develop new teachers while retaining quality and experienced educators. If ratified, the agreement will go before the school board for a vote at its Feb. 20 meeting.
“We wanted to not only look at what’s happening in the here and now, but also have our sights set on the future,” said Linda Pfeilsticker, lead negotiator for the WEA. “How can we do the most for everyone? How can we address the issues now, but also not short anyone in the future?”
The agreement includes step and lane increases for each year in the salary schedule. It also eliminates the first step, which increases the rate of pay for new teachers, and creates an additional career increment for teachers with 24 years of experience.
WAPS board chair Nancy Denzer said one of the main areas of focus was to help the district attract and retain quality people while also honoring veteran staff members “who are in it for the long haul.”
Seventy percent of today’s WAPS teachers hold an advanced degree and nearly 90 percent have three or more years of experience — both well above the state average.
“We wanted to make sure we take care of both ends of the spectrum,” she said. “Attractive beginning salaries to bring in talented young teachers and salaries at the top end that will keep people in the district … it seems like a simple thing, but it’s not. There are always nuances.”
The agreement also includes retirement incentives for career part-time educators and agreed upon language related to the shared responsibility of insurance expenses.
“The goal is to get the best people possible in front of our kids,” Denzer said. “The team really came together and was united in our efforts to create a good scenario in the end.”
Even the most difficult conversations, Pfeilsticker said, were respectful and productive.
“Everyone, from all sides, approached this from the standpoint of ‘How do we do what’s best for the district for all employees?’” she said.
Once the agreement is approved by both parties, the school board can continue to work on the 2020-21 budget. A board work session has been scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 29.