Raises highlight EEA contract

  By Thomas Wilson
  star staff
  twilson@starhq.com
  A system-initiated salary increase and equalized pay for some athletic coaching positions are among proposed revisions to the master contract between the Elizabethton Board of Education and Elizabethton Education Association with representatives from both sides content with this year's negotiations.
  "In the 10 or 11 years I've been doing this it the most successful year the EEA has ever had," Harry Farthing, co-chief negotiator for EEA, said on Wednesday.
  ECS teachers will receive a two percent salary increase through the state's Basic Education Plan formula plus a one percent pay raise from the school district. ECS Superintendent Dr. David Roper announced in May the system would add the one percent local pay raise.
  "That is the largest single raise I can remember and that will benefit all the teachers," said Farthing.
  The Tennessee General Assembly approved Gov. Phil Bredesen's 2005 budget with the two percent raise on the state salary schedule plus a two percent, one-time "bonus" to be distributed to teachers this fall. The state's bonus is not two percent of an individual's salary, but represents two percent of designated funds - approximately $36.6 million - which will be distributed equally to teachers through the state.
  ECS administration approved a $1,000 bonus for teachers and staff earlier this year after the system realized significant savings on health care insurance premiums for the 2004 fiscal year. The EEA and school system officials negotiate salary issues annually. The contract revisions come before the Elizabethton BOE for approval tonight.
  The revised contract agreement also equalizes supplemental pay for the head coach of Elizabethton High School's volleyball team with the head coaches of the high school's boys' and girls' track teams. The revised athletic pay supplement plan sets a schedule of $1,421 to $2,131 for volleyball and track head coaches depending on the number of years coaching. The schedule is based on coaching experience from zero to five years.
  "We were trying to get all our coaching supplements to be on the same page," said Patrick Little, ECS director of special education, testing and guidance services, who is also a member of the school system's negotiating team.
  The contract also creates a volleyball coaching position at T.A. Dugger Junior High School with a pay supplement of $568 to $852. Little said T.A. Dugger is establishing a 7th- and 8th-grade volleyball program that would serve as a feeder school for the high school.
  The agreement also diverts supplements paid to assistant coaches to a team's head coach if an assistant's position is vacated and not immediately filled. Under the revised contract agreement, if a team's assistant coach resigns and his or her position is not filled within 10 days the team's head coach will get the assistant coach's pay supplement for doing both jobs.
  Little said the rule did not permit a head coach the opportunity to collect additional income on a whim. The assistant's job must be posted 10 days as a vacant position; the high school's athletic director must recommend it, and the director of schools must approve the athletic director's recommendation.
  "It is not a carte blanche type where you automatically get the supplement," said Little.
  Head coaches for EHS football, boys' basketball and girls' basketball teams would earn from $2,500 to $3,750 depending on their tenure as coach under the athletic supplement pay schedule for 2004-2005 school year. Seven assistant coaching positions in football and two assistant girls' basketball coaching slots are slated to receive supplements ranging from an entry level amount of $1,591 to $2,387 for five years of coaching experience. Four assistant boys basketball coaching positions are tapped to receive supplement pay of $1,137 to $1,705.
  Head coaches for the high school's baseball, softball, boys' and girls' track teams earn pay supplements of $1,421 with assistants earning $739 to $1,110 depending on their number of years coaching.
  Athletic coaches may or may not be faculty members. Coaches who are not faculty members receive the supplement as his or her sole compensation from the system, said Little.
  Farthing attributed the EEA's success to fellow co-chief negotiator Tina Parlier, longtime EEA point man Sam Greenwell, as well as negotiating team members Courtney Mathena and Libby Addington. He also credited Little, Roper, and ECS Director of Finance, Cynthia Roberts, for their willingness to work with teachers and make the local pay raise happen.
  "We really thank (Roberts) for finding the dollars to have the raise," he said.
  The revised contract also includes an agreement prohibiting student access to passwords or override codes of computers in any city school or the ECS central office. An EHS senior was charged with four felonies including identity theft and theft over $1,000 by Elizabethton police earlier this year after the student allegedly used teachers' credit cards to purchase hundreds of dollars in computer equipment on-line using a computer at the high school. The student had access to the school's computers and passwords according to police.
  "Them putting that in the contract made us feel pretty good that they cared about our safety," said Farthing.
  The revised contract also includes a test program granting one bereavement day for certified school employees. The system's paraprofessional staff already receives a bereavement day.
  Both Farthing and Little said they were encouraged at the tenor of the negotiations between the system and union this year - a good sign given the issues of salary, vacation, health benefits and leave will be on the bargaining table next year when the two parties negotiate the entire EEA contract.
  "The one good thing that has happened this year is it has been a positive roundtable discussion," said Little. "People seemed to be able to talk freely to discuss the concerns they might have."
  He said the ECS team would likely begin preparing for those talks within the next month. Farthing said the union will continue to work to improve the salary scale for other athletic coaching positions.
  "We are very optimistic heading into the negotiations next year," Farthing said.