Columbia Reaches Tentative Agreement with Teachers

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COLUMBIA - After negotiations came down to the wire late Wednesday night, Columbia Public Schools and the Columbia Missouri National Education Association (CMNEA) reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement.

Wednesday, the two sides had not come to an agreement, facing a midnight deadline on Wednesday night.

The district and CMNEA confirmed to KOMU 8 News the two parties eventually reached a tentative agreement and CMNEA presented the agreement to educators at a meeting at Hickman High School Thursday afternoon.

The CMNEA advocates on behalf of 1,400 district employees and bargains for all district employees who have a teacher's certification in order to perform their duties. A collective bargaining contract is an agreement between the district and employees on compensation and workplace conditions.

CPS' Executive Director of Human Resources and Employment Law, Andrea Follett told KOMU 8 News the most significant parts of the agreement are the length of it and a plan to restore salaries lost when the district had to freeze salaries during the 2009-2010 school year.

As part of the agreement, the district will pay any employee who was with the district in 2009-2010 a salary increase based on what they should have received that school year.

The district told KOMU 8 News it will cost approximately $850,000 next year to restore the frozen "step" in the salary schedule.

The contract would last for three years, while the current contract covered only one school year.

CPS Community Relations Director Michelle Baumstark told KOMU 8 News collective bargaining is new in the Columbia district, but so far the district is glad the policy is in place.

"We're certainly pleased that there's process in place for our employees to have a voice and certainly through this process we were able to not only have discussions with the board for consideration but also items they brought forth and wanted the district to consider through the bargaining process."

Members of CMNEA told KOMU 8 News it had 16 workplace condition priorities that did not make it into the plan.

CMNEA President Susan McClintic said the district and the union are still feeling each other out in the bargaining process. CMNEA is not entirely happy with the tentative agreement.

CMNEA had 16 workplace priorities that did not make it into the agreement. Rock Bridge Teacher Jennifer Black Cone said those priorities include a 30 minute lunch instead of a 25 minute lunch and 250 minutes of uninterrrupted plan time each week.

"We're thrilled to have something that we've negotiated but we're still disappointed that we have issues that are on the table and they were on the table last year as well, that are coming from our staff, that are coming from our bargaining unit and we're saying this matters. And the district doesn't see that it matters yet but we're working on it."

Before the agreement goes into effect, it has to get a "thumbs-up" from the union and a vote from the Columbia School Board.