Schools

Tentative contract calls for teacher starting pay increase at North

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LINDEN — North Montgomery Community School Corp. has reached a tentative agreement with the teachers association to raise starting teacher pay as part of the latest teachers’ contract.

The proposed agreement, which was presented to the school board on Monday, increases the starting salary for full-time teachers by $3,000 to $41,000. The boost is the first increase since the 2016-17 school year.

Amid an ongoing teacher shortage largely driven by low pay, a new state law requires schools to try to increase minimum teacher salaries to at least $40,000 by 2022-23.

Starting teachers are currently paid slightly less compared to those at Crawfordsville and South Montgomery, where the current minimum salary is $38,300. That’s above the state average of around $37,500 in 2019-20, according to a report from the National Education Association.

The proposed contract also includes a $4,000 salary increase for teachers rated effective or highly effective in last year’s state evaluations. Health insurance premiums do not increase in the tentative agreement.

Association co-president Megan Oppy said teachers were “very thankful” for the proposals. The association will vote on the contract ahead of the board’s approval in a special meeting at 7:30 a.m. Oct. 8.

In other business, the board received an update from Superintendent Dr. Colleen Moran on COVID-19. No changes were recommended to the district’s mitigation strategy.

The district has seen nearly as many positive student and staff cases in the first seven weeks of school than were reported all of last school year. There were 121 total positive cases reported through the week of Sept. 20, compared to last year’s total of 139.

Data compiled by the district show infections dropping in schools where masks were required to be worn after the positivity rate hit at least 1%, the threshold set by the board. That was lowered from the 3% benchmark approved in August.

“It’s kind of hard to argue that masking doesn’t have an impact because clearly our numbers have gone down,” Moran said.

But in not recommending a districtwide mandate, she emphasized the administration was trying to apply reasoning and logic based on the district’s numbers.

The district has begun sharing weekly updates with parents on case counts and positivity rates for each school. The reports are more detailed than the numbers presented on Indiana’s COVID-19 dashboard as they include schools with fewer than five reported cases, whose data is suppressed by the state.

“We’re told we’re not supposed to report those numbers because you may know who that person is,” Moran said, “but at this point, I feel that people need to know.”

The update can be found in the revised back to school plan on the district’s website.

Some of the nearly 20 parents in the audience wanted a chance to speak on the COVID-19 policies, but the board does not set aside time for general public comments in meetings. Board policy states that speakers must apply to be on the agenda no later than 14 days ahead of time, and state law does not guarantee a citizen’s right to speak at a public government meeting.

“You had an emergency meeting that nobody knew about and we weren’t allowed to voice our concerns. We’re here to voice our concerns,” one man told the board, referring to one of the recent hastily-called sessions to discuss COVID-19 strategies that were advertised as required by Indiana’s Open Door Law.

“Sir, I’m sorry, that is not on the agenda at the present time,” Terresa Hatke, the board’s vice president, replied. “You can apply to be on the agenda for the next board meeting.”

The next regularly scheduled meeting is set for 6 p.m. Oct. 25 in the central office board room.

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