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Bargaining Notes 4/6/22

The HEA and HPS met Wednesday, April 6th to further explore options for salary negotiations. The team discussed both internal and external issues impacting the negotiations including administrative pay, the economy and the budget. The team is committed to finding a solution to all of the interests – and to resolving negotiations. The next meeting is scheduled for April 20, 2022.

April 6, 2022, 4:00 p.m.

Board Meeting Room, Helena Public Schools Central Admin Building

Meeting convened by Max, 16:05


Team: Rex Weltz, Jane Shawn, Jannelle Mickelson, Stacy Collette, Josh McKay, Brett Zanto (ABS), Dave Thennis, Wynn Randall, Terry Beaver, Anna Alger, Adam Clinch, Kelly Elder, Bob Korizek, Erika McMillin, Paul Phillips, Jonna Schwartz, Jake Warner, Joanne Didriksen, Jennifer McKee (NOT ATTENDING)

Max explains that at any time we can add to the story.

HEA wants to add to story:

Before we begin, we have something to add to our story.

On March 5th, the newspaper ran an article detailing the specifics of admin increases that had been put in place at the end of the last school year. Distributed is a document detailing the data that were shared in the paper.

These increases reflect what gains the admin obtained this year and the article also shared that each admin also received these increases in back pay for the 2020-2021 school year (last year).

For example, some positions saw their maxes increase by 50%, so not only would they be receiving $30,000-$40,000+ more this year than the year prior; they also received a single $30,000-$40,000+ check last spring for last year's back pay. That's an increase of $60,000-$90,000+ for single positions. The article indicated that these positions had not seen increases for years so we just figured it was to combat inflation over that time. When we looked at what inflation did from May 2016 - May 2021, it was 12%. However, the average for admin positions increased 30%. (PCAP teacher scale saw just 1.4% between 2016-2021 with 4 out of 5 years receiving being frozen, receiving no increases in the scale). So, not only did admin match inflation over this time, the district added 18% OVER inflation on average for admin. We ended the session last time talking about how everyone was in the same boat concerning inflation, so that is why we believe this part of the story is very relevant now.

Last session, the budget projections were laid out, indicating a red number for next year even with no increases. When asked what do we do, it was acknowledged that this issue didn't arise overnight.

Teachers are simply trying to keep up with inflation this year. In the year that teachers were being asked to move to a new salary schedule which would, in the long run, financially benefit the district over the teachers, and in which some teachers did not see an increase of any amount, the district gave increases to administrators that amounted to 18% over inflation and gave back pay in the same amount.

So, that’s the elephant in the room, the one that Max talks about, and one that needs to be brought forward. Inflation is not affecting each of us equally, and this is one of the reasons why teachers are asking what they are asking. The teacher pay matrix and the administrative pay matrix were both increased last in the same year, 2018-2019. Since then, there have been no increases to the teacher pay matrix, while the administrative pay matrix grew by an average of 30% in 2020-2021 (the year of the back pay). While we all realize that the administrative increases are not the only factor in a red budget number, we also realize that teachers deserve to keep their standard of living through a cost of living increase that keeps up with inflation.

Admin. Increase had nothing to do with inflation; it was in regard to a back salary component through the market analysis. Admin. Was the last group to run a market analysis, receive an increase. Admin. Matrix for a long time was 24 steps and the cell numbers have never changed—for twenty years, cell numbers never changed. Roughly between step numbers within the cells are from $130 overall increase to $300. The change made was that steps at the bottom were eliminated to bring admin in at a higher rate. The component that ties into it is the buying power to hire and retain admin. Many get some admin experience here and leave to go to other districts and make more money. The goal is to get everyone into the middle. Some admin increases were less than 10k. Some teachers made more of a jump than some administrators.

To clarify, the admin scale research in the HEA files, shoes that since 2014 there have been three increases in the admin pay matrix besides when it was altered with the lopping of.

2014-2015: Elementary principal step 0: annual rate: $75,747

2017-2018: $80,463

2019-2020: $81,400

So, we have heard a lot about no increase to the last matrix for the last two decades, but we don’t think that’s accurate.

We’re also forgetting some of the modifications that happened that we need to consider: we took the top six steps off the admin pay schedule. We didn’t move admin. Down six when we did that. That’s where you see the changes: 0 is the new 6. We also froze administrators for two years. The matrix started at 24, went to 19 (it was in 2014-2015), and now 5 (2021-2022).

In the 19-step scale, there have been changes/increases.

In 2018, when the mill levy passed, a 1.5% increase was applied to both admin and teachers. This was bargained in 17-18 for the 18-19 school year. Each cell got the same amount of money. HEA was instrumental in passing that levy. Since that time, there has not been an increase in the salary scale for teachers. This philosophy was applied to all bargaining units. The years of 2018-2019 large increases to secretaries, paras, and independents, not for teachers.

We understand the elephant in the room is admin. Pay. The district has been working on it; it’s not over. The purpose of increases are about more than just inflation. When the district does market analysis, it’s not in reference to inflation. We are trying to get people to a level of compensation that allows the district to recruit and retain people. We can debate yearly raises, but admin were the lowest paid in the state. When you spend 20 years being low or the lowest, it’s going to be painful to get it to average. It’s tough. No one wants to deal with it; it’s controversial. In negotiations we want to keep people competitive or a bit above middle to keep doing what we are doing in this district. Regardless of the work that was done for admin., the market analysis came back low. Adjustments will be made to the top. Admin. wants all groups to be competitive and above average. It won’t be painful to do this work in future because we will address sub-groups.

A lot of faith was lost in the combination of the last negotiation, involving market analysis. WE did the research, showed our work, etc. It was incredibly disheartening ot read the article and the comments about the analysis. It’s hard to hear the philosophy and the way it was enacted being so far apart. There’s been a lack of transparency; we get little snapshots of data from the last few years. Why is the union tasked with researching and analyzing and that’s not reciprocated?

Emotions are vested; things would have been done differently. Are there lanes that need to be fixed, subgroups to analyze, etc. Collectively, we need to make sure every group is close to market.

Last time, as teachers, our bargaining included a market analysis. Framing where teachers are is a story of giving and concessions: the work for the mill levy, a raise being contingent on that; every time we have come in as a team and we see Janelle’s numbers and we come to a conclusion, which has been 0% for a while. Our previous HR Director spoke about retirement incentives and their cost. So, we came together and addressed that issue. And teachers made concessions. Trustees have said that if we get to a schedule like other AAs, we can see cost of living increases. Adam’s presentation from years ago included cost of living. We were told that if we didn’t completely redesign our pay scale, we would never see another dollar on the PCAP. We moved to steps and lanes with the understanding and promise that we would receive cost of living increases. PCAP brought people here, but over the years, without the COLA, the earning power of that matrix decreased. The new scale has issues that need to be remedied. This is a story of concessions, and the professional educators in this district are not in a great place. There is a lot that has been building.

In prior years’ bargaining, when looking to build three new schools, teachers again placed themselves on hold for the good of the district. This was in 2016. It’s been happening for a long time. There was a time we felt like we were in this together and doing this for the group. We conceded and felt like our time would come. The article called that into question. We’ve had to increase our daily responsibilities and what we do in the classroom.

In looking at state-wide numbers, to get to median/average is fine. But it was a heavy lift to get there. But admin. got there in one year and did it again with backpay.

Last session we looked at the projections, when we talk about market analysis, a budget projection had to have been done—without budget adjustment, admin pay isn’t sustainable. This was known. Done with available general fund money, but problematic after ESSR money runs out. Adjustment on admin pay was about 800k. Movement to steps and lanes was $2 million. District feels like groups are at market; now, we need to figure out what to do.

The pie is there; what do we do?

A budget is a list of priorities: what are the district’s priorities? There are pieces of the budget that HEA has no purview over, which is logical.

PCAP did marvelous things but ultimately wasn’t sustainable. We have to come out of negotiations at a point where the board will accept the proposal. We are talking about priorities, and in this district, we value people. The board values teachers. It also recognizes that custodians and secretaries do their jobs. We pay 93-94% out of elementary school genral fund budget goes to teacher salary. It’s 88-89% in high school. Other districts run from 86-89%. We put people first, not just administrators. And some other things suffer. We’re going to have to come up with a budget that is equitable and sustainable. We will receive money from the state this year, but over 90% of budget goes to salary. If we continue where we are in salary, we are going to have to cut some things. Rex said he will find some money, but it won’t be a large amount, because it’s not there.

The budget was passed last year even with an unsustainable budget projection but the board wasn’t aware of that. It’s hard to hear that teachers are tasked with sustainability when the same was not true for administrators. A $2 million adjustment to moves to steps and lanes gets divided among more than 600 people, whereas $750k was divided among fewer than 40 people.

Teacher matrix was going to cost up front and then flatten out. When we negotiated, the implication was that by moving to the steps and lanes matrix, we would have opportunities for COLAs. We did not want to move off of PCAP.

We don’t need to figure out what to cut: Rex will get us there.

From here, we can continue to discuss but we need to move forward with options. How do we move forward? Points and story are well taken.


Option 1: 7.9% increase

Go back to the last salary schedule- since the last time, inflation has diluted such numbers. Match inflation on the salary scale- 7.9%- for same purchasing power as last spring. This increase based upon actual salary, not base.

Option 2: 7.9% increase #2

Steps/lanes and PCAP- have everyone stay equal because of different scales- 7.9%- based upon actual salary, not base

Option 3: Increase > 7.9%, 11-12%

Given increased demands on teachers, the value of innovation in the classroom, combined with the CPI, this raise would not only keep up with inflation, but would increase teacher earning power.

Option 4: Support 11-12%

Demonstrates a greater appreciation (value) for teachers and makes up for deficiencies in prior years. Look at other increases for other staff over this time.

Option 5 (consideration?): % on base vs. $ in cells

For some years, with an increase, it has been given to each cell- “chopped up.” Increase the amount found in each cell. There are people currently in “ghost cells.”

Other Options from 3.23.22:

Option 6: 1%

Brought up in the context of what does 1% cost. We now know.

Option 7 (4/6/2022): are there ways accounts (interlocal, ESSR, etc.) that could be used to provide an increase that don’t ultimately affect the longevity of the matrix (stipends, bonuses, longevity pay, etc.)

Option 8 (4/6/2022): Add a stipend to folks who didn’t get movement in matrix last year. Two layers: one time stipend for those most impacted, plus a percent on the base for everyone. When we look at a stipend, that doesn’t become part of the retirement configurations (unless it’s in the final year), but longevity pay does.

Option 9 (4/6/2022): 1% to the base and look at options for others

Option 10 (4/6/2022): Discussed the two layer approach, but HEA’s goal is to keep everyone unified. We do feel that we’d like to focus on a percentage increase for all teachers/each cell. This does have to through the board, but it also has to pass membership. Our ask is the 7.9%, but if that isn’t doable, what is? What number can we take back to membership for feedback? The same percentage in every cell means almost every employee; some aren’t in cells. If the matrix caught up to the person and that person gets an increase, that person would be placed in the new cell. So, they may not get the full 7.9%, but they are back on the scale and moving forward. PCAP is part of the matrix.

Option 11(4/6/2022): 2.5% increase

Option 12 (4/6/2022):


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