The big-ticket item of the night at the first Anchorage School District school board meeting of 2018 involved the teachers-- who are still without a long-term contract.

Teachers with ASD were vocal about a long-term contract, testifying before the board with some new ideas. Although there was a tentative agreement, the teachers union did not ratify it, bringing both sides back to square one.

"The teachers are concerned," ASD teacher Corey Aist said in November of the rejection. "They are asked to do a lot on their classroom. I've been to every board meeting, I've listened to all their stories and they just want to be heard."

Teachers are asking for a 3 percent salary increase. The district says almost two-thirds of the teachers have qualified for a 2 percent STEP movement raise this year and just can't afford to do anymore.

"Our teachers have shown up in numbers, which is a good thing," Dr. Deena Bishop said. "It's good to participate in this work of the board. We did not and we're not able to ratify a contract settlement with the teachers union negotiators."

Both sides have yet to come up with the numbers both sides feel comfortable with to move forward in the district.

"The biggest issue is a COLA (Cost of living allowance) increase," Dr. Bishop said. "Where we've been able to settle other contracts in other entities that do reward folks with one-time money, savings, but not put it into the schedule where it will be ongoing. I know that's not the best way to operate."

A cost of living increase with a significant amount of members, around 3,500 in the Anchorage School District, is expensive.

"With the state's economy the way it is, we don't want to reduce any teachers by paying some more than others," Dr. Bishop said. "We're trying to really balance that out to just find a solution."

The teachers want the board to know that they are working hard on this. They are working on student success and have changed their schedule to work on this.

"I know they are tired right now," Dr. Bishop said. "There are initiatives and they are participating and there is change and all those things that are part of the work and letting us know that they are doing it, and I agree that we are moving ahead in our schools and moving forward to the next level."

The negotiations have not been easy, but Dr. Bishop does feel they will get there soon.

"I do wish we just had a contract that would settle some things," Dr. Bishop said. "We value our teachers and we will get there. We want to come to a number that won't result in losing people. That's our biggest thing, we don't want to lose people."

The district team and the teachers union team will meet three times in the month of January with an update on those negotiations coming before the school board at the end of the month.

Other items of interest on the school board meeting agenda included the continuation of bonds approved in previous years.

"These come in small chunks, if you will," ASD Superintendent Dr. Deena Bishop said. "We're looking at continuing the work at West High School, which involves gym and HVAC upgrades."

The second part of that construction is expected to be completed this summer.

A few other interesting school items from the meeting included the award of contract for Chugiak High School HVAC upgrades and the naming of the Bartlett High cafeteria in honor of Tanya Taylor - Winchester.

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