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EH board OKs raises; G-C will do without

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HANCOCK COUNTY — Eastern Hancock teachers will get a raise this year, while Greenfield-Central school officials decided that their budget is too tight for salary increases.

Both EH and G-C boards met Monday evening and approved teacher contracts for the 2012-2013 school year.  Southern Hancock approved a contract last week; Mt. Vernon’s teacher contract is still being negotiated.

EH Superintendent Randy Harris calls this a year of transition before the state’s new teacher evaluation-based raises are fully implemented. Eastern Hancock teachers will get a 1.5 percent pay raise plus a 1 percent one-time bonus, or stipend. Teachers will also get $125 for every day they work developing curriculum during summer break; that’s up from $100.

The school corporation is also contributing an additional 20 percent toward teachers’ health insurance, which is about $900 more for a single employee or $1,600 more for a family plan.

Administrators and support staff will also receive a 1.5 percent pay raise with a 1 percent bonus on top of that.

Harris said the schools continue to be financially stable despite the fact that the 2010 referendum failed that would have brought more property tax revenue to the district.

As a result, the school laid off about 20 employees; however, Harris said the school corporation didn’t see the drastic funding cuts it anticipated. As a result, Harris said the school has become more efficient and funds are available for raises. Last year, school employees received a 4 percent raise.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that everybody is working 100 miles an hour,” Harris said. “I think making those cuts to make us more efficient has put us in a strong financial situation. That’s really what allows us to (give raises).”

EH is also the only Hancock County school to have reported an increase in student enrollment from last year. That means more funding from the state.

The teacher’s union signed off on the contract last week, and the school board approved it unanimously Monday. Harris said because compensation based on teacher evaluations will be rolled out at schools across the state this year, the contract negotiation was a “bridge year” from the old way of compensating teachers based mostly on experience to the new evaluations.

At G-C where enrollment numbers have remained static, there was no money for raises, Superintendent Dr. Linda Gellert told the board.

Salaries are tied directly to the corporation’s general fund, which receives state money for each student enrolled in the district.

“If you have no new funds coming in through your ADM count, it’s really hard to talk to teachers about raises,” Gellert said. “The bottom line is there’s no new money.”

However, Gellert said Tuesday while the corporation could not fund raises this year, it did boost the employer contribution for the health care benefit this year. G-C will pay an additional $1,799 toward the employee family plan and $288 for the employee single plan for 2013 and 2014.

Meanwhile, the Mt. Vernon teacher contract remains under negotiation as the district continues to wade into unfamiliar territory with shrinking funds and an unprecedented economic emergency in late 2011.

A majority of members of the Classroom Teachers Association stopped a grievance and request for raises as they continue into a third year of pay freezes while costs for the school’s health insurance plan continues to increase.

Pay rates for Mt. Vernon administrators and support staff are also frozen.

Southern Hancock teachers signed off on a one-year contract last week. Administrators set aside $100,000 for salary increases, and teacher evaluations will be used to determine raises.

The district will hand out raises to teachers who are deemed “highly effective” and “effective.” Any teacher having an evaluation result of “improvement needed” or “ineffective” will not receive a raise.

But part of the evaluation process includes the school building’s letter grade, which is handed out by the Indiana Department of Education. Because the letter grades don’t come out until the following year, it will make the contract retroactive. That means teachers will get paid at their 2011-12 salaries for the 2012-13 school year. They will receive a retroactive increase in the form of a one-time payment as soon as the performance evaluations are completed.

Harris said up until about four weeks ago he was going to negotiate teacher raises for Eastern Hancock just like Southern Hancock did. But then he confirmed with the state DOE that raises could be given this year in addition to starting to implement teacher evaluations.

“We are all following state law,” Harris said. “All of these are legitimate ways of handling it in this school year for teacher compensation.”

Staff writers Noelle M. Steele, Joe Hornaday and Kristy Deer contributed to this report.

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