The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

January 13, 2012

Teacher salary talks begin in earnest

Teachers, administrators keep eyes on Legislature

OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa school district has begun negotiations to determine teacher salaries for next year.

“We met with teacher leaders (Thursday) and walked them through our proposal, and answered questions they had,” said Davis Eidahl, superintendent of the school district.

The two initial meetings were open to the public. First, the teachers present their proposal. Then, as on Thursday, the district presents its proposal. Then negotiations are conducted privately as the two sides attempt to reach a consensus that both are willing to accept.

“We work back and forth from each of our proposals,” said Eidahl. “At times we see similar items we want addressed. Toward the end of negotiations, it comes down to priorities and compromises.”

It also comes down, in a way, to what legislators decide in Des Moines.

Brett Fischels, a teacher who leads negotiations on behalf of the Ottumwa Education Association, said he keeps on eye on the Iowa House.

“As a member of the association, I’m watching what they do very closely,” Fischels said. “Education is my livelihood, and what they decide can definitely impact education. Last year there was no allowable growth [for school district revenue].”

So that became something both the district and the teachers had to work around during their negotiations.  

Eidahl said he too watches what is going on in the Legislature.

So what’s on the table? It’s not just money, the union negotiator said. Fischels said the association members want teachers to be the best professionals they can be.

Both sides want some language changes, which can include basics like when employees take time off or how long they take to “prep” for class.

“Our district has been fortunate here in Ottumwa. While the [union] and the district don’t see eye to eye on every issue, we agree on the big things,” said Eidahl.

Fischels agreed that the teacher association and the district have a pretty good relationship.

“I’ll say it’s as good as it’s been for a while. A couple years ago, it may have been a little rocky. But I think both sides have made a concerted effort to be better listeners, to listen to each other.”

“When it comes to student achievement,” said Eidahl, “we’re on the same page. We all want what’s in the best interest of kids and the district. When it comes to money? We’re not quite on the same page there. They gave us their proposal, [which included] a request for a total compensation — that’s salary and benefits — increase of 8.5 percent.”

“We’re trying to accomplish the same thing I hope we try to accomplish every year. We try to get a settlement that’s fair for our members while also being balanced,” Fischels said.

He said he believes Ottumwa teachers have not shown themselves to be greedy when negotiating pay raises.

And Eidahl said the increase requested is not shockingly high. But the district has to look at its overall financial health, he said, and the biggest expense for Ottumwa schools is payroll.

“We offered a 1.7 percent total package increase,” the superintendent said. “That would allow us to increase our contribution to IPERS (retirement program) and fund [salary] steps.”

The steps are the incremental pay increases a teacher receives as they add another year of service. If nothing changed except for the increased experience of the district workforce, it would cost the district 1.4 percent more than last year.

“We’re looking at what the next few years will bring with declining enrollment,” said Eidahl. “We want to make sure the offer we do present is fair but also responsible for our district and community.”

Salary talks traditionally take about two months.

Text Only
Local News
  • 0724 OTT Tehel mug -T -M Resolution — Techel verdict reached

    DAVENPORT — The father of a slain Wapello County woman said he began to heal as soon as he heard the guilty verdict today. The jury unanimously pronounced Seth Techel, 23, guilty on charges of first-degree murder and non-consensual termination of a h

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0725 OTT Riverfront design A new outlook on Ottumwa OTTUMWA — A "River Renaissance" is brewing in Wapello County. Planners working for Christian Rushing Studio from Tennessee took the public's ideas, and gave them life via maps, numerical projections and artists' renderings. "Hold onto your seats; you

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Police to parents: check kids' online activities BLOOMFIELD — The Bloomfield police chief says the arrests of nine men in connection with sexting a teenage girl underscores the need for parents to keep an eye on their children online. Chief Shawn Armstrong said cases involving one or two people are

    July 24, 2014

  • 0725 OTT birthday rumble -T -M Age 106, still ready to rumble OTTUMWA — With the stories flowing, Celma Birdsall had the ride of her life Thursday. "She shared a lot of memories," said her chauffeur for the day, Dennis Parrish. Birdsall has built up a lot of stories over the 106 years she's been around. After h

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0725 OTT College Connections color photo -T -M IHCC eases transition to college OTTUMWA — When choosing a college that's just right for you, it is important to find one that works its hardest to ensure your success as a student. Indian Hills Community College is doing just that this week with a College Connections Workshop spons

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0724 OTT Tehel mug -T -M Techel found guilty on both counts

    DAVENPORT — Jurors have found Seth Techel guilty in the 2012 murder of his wife, Lisa, and the couple’s unborn child.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Victim advocates: Helping families cope

    DAVENPORT — Family members of a slain Wapello County woman have someone to lean on — literally and figuratively — while they sit through a murder trial for the third time. Seth Techel, 23, is on trial in Scott County, Davenport. He faces charges of fi

    July 24, 2014

  • 0725 OTT Five Things logo -L -T Five things to do in southeast Iowa this weekend OTTUMWA — There's a wide variety of activities to choose from this weekend in southeast Iowa. Get out and explore the countryside, find some new books to curl up with or help raise money for some great causes. The choice is yours — pick one or attend

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0724 OTT Tehel mug -T -M Jury begins deliberations DAVENPORT — The fate of a Wapello County man accused of killing his wife is in the hands of a jury in Scott County, which began deliberations Wednesday and will continue deliberating today.The jury began deliberations about 4 p.m. Wednesday in the ca

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Van Buren says bye-bye to Waste Management KEOSAUQUA — Waste Management has been charging the Van Buren Community School District an average of nearly $1,600 a month to remove waste and recycled materials from the Douds and Keosauqua centers. Now faced with a bidding process, Waste Management

    July 23, 2014

Photo reprints