Wichita teachers get new contract and nearly 4 percent raise
Wichita teachers would get a 3.65 percent raise and other compensation under a tentative contract agreement announced Wednesday.
The deal marks the first time in several years that the state’s largest school district and its teachers union have reached a tentative agreement before the start of the school year.
Teachers will vote on the contract during in-service days later this month. If they ratify it, it would go to the Wichita school board for final approval.
“This is a step in the right direction,” said Steve Wentz, president of United Teachers of Wichita, which represents about 4,100 teachers, counselors, librarians and other certified employees.
“I think this shows what happens when there’s listening along with the talking,” he said. “We had . . . some courageous conversations which at times may have been sort of contentious. But no one lost their cool, and we really did problem-solve.”
Highlights of the tentative 2018-19 contract:
- A base salary increase of 3.65 percent.
- One step on the salary schedule for years of experience.
- Adjustment on the salary schedule based on additional education, known as tracks.
- Longevity bonuses for teachers who qualify for them.
- No increase in insurance premiums.
- An additional 1.5 days for teachers who work with special-education students to complete required paperwork.
- A requirement that teachers update online grade books more frequently.
- Two new peer consultants to coach and support first-year teachers.
- Reducing the number of elements on the Marzano teacher evaluation process from 23 to 10.
During a news conference Wednesday morning, Superintendent Alicia Thompson and school board president Sheril Logan said the contract rewards teachers for their hard work and dedication.
“The Board of Education has made it very clear that one of their priorities is investing in staff,” Thompson said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of programs you have. It doesn’t matter about any of that if you don’t have good staff and that you can retain good people in your organization.”
Under the proposed contract, the starting salary for Wichita teachers would be $42,177, a district spokeswoman said.
During this year’s contract negotiations, union representatives raised concerns about classroom discipline, saying some teachers are being pressured not to report disruptive students to the principal.
Chris Wendt, executive director of elementary schools, said the tentative deal does not include any contractual changes on that topic.
“We did acknowledge some of the concerns that the UTW team brought to us, and we’re going to continue to problem-solve on some of those things,” Wendt said.
Wichita district officials said the proposed deal amounts to a 4.85 percent increase to salaries, benefits and other forms of compensation.
The deal would cost the district about $12.1 million — an amount that has been factored into the proposed 2018-19 budget. It would account for the bulk of a projected $18 million in additional state funding the district will get this year under a new school finance plan.
The tentative deal includes a requirement that teachers update online grade books more frequently. The district’s ParentVue and StudentVue system allows parents and students to log in from any computer or through an app to check grades, assignments and attendance records.
The tentative deal would require high school teachers to update grades at least weekly; middle school teachers would be required to update grades at least every other week; first- through fifth-grade teachers would update grades at least monthly; kindergarten and pre-kindergarten teachers would follow the current contract.
The current contract requires teachers to update grades only once per nine-week grading period, though most do so more often. The issue of requiring teachers to update online grade books more regularly has been raised several times over the past few years.
This year’s negotiations marked a return to a process called interest-based bargaining, after two years of traditional contract talks. Instead of issuing proposals and counter-proposals, the sides begin with a list of objectives and work together toward consensus.
Wentz said he was pleased with the process and plans to continue it next year.
“I have had to learn to be a good listener, and that’s a key part of it,” he said.
“Whatever you call it, the fact that people are listening and reflecting back what people have said. . . . It was beneficial for all of us.”