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Some members of Cambridge-Isanti’s kindergarten class for next year brought gifts for school board members and staff.

The Cambridge-Isanti Board of Education voted to approve a new contract with its teachers at its meeting on Thursday, May 19.

Two days earlier, the system’s teachers voted to approve the contract, which covers this past school year as well as next year.

“As the school board representative on the negotiations team, I very much appreciated the collaborative process,” said Shawn Kerkeide, C-I director of human resources and administrative services. “I want to thank our teachers and staff for that.”

Justin Kennedy, a teacher at the high school and lead negotiator for the teachers’ bargaining unit, said in a release that he agreed that the process was collaborative.

“This settlement has taken the first steps toward making our master agreement competitive within our comparable districts,” he said. “We hope to make further progress towards this goal by addressing state funding inequities that limit our district.

“Considering the many language changes that we agreed upon, the contract has been updated and reflects the many changes in education that have occurred over the past several years. We look forward to partnering with the school board and community as we work to address inequalities in the state’s funding formula for education.”

Under the new contract, pay for each teacher will increase by 1.4% for the current year and 2% for the 2022-2023 school year. Starting salaries for teachers will increase to $42,708.

The settlement includes granting pay steps and lanes, as well as improvement to benefits, which will amount to a 3.15% total package increase for the current school year (with retroactive pay due before June 30) and a 4.05% total package increase for the 2022-2023 school year.

Coverage of the pay increases in this contract period will rely on the state legislature-approved funding for the biennium, as well as the local operating referendum that was approved by district voters in November of 2021.

The 2021 Omnibus Education Bill included a 2.45% education formula funding increase for the 2021-2022 school year and a 2% education formula funding increase for the 2022-2023 school year.

Both rates are well below the rate of inflation; state funding increases have not kept pace with inflation for more than a decade. The local operating referendum is expected to fill the gap.

According to the Minnesota Department of Economic Development, average wages across all industries in Minnesota increased by more than 6% in 2021.

Other provisions within the contract will:

— Increase non-instructional work time for teachers by two days.

— Increase compensation for covering a class during prep time.

— Provide $500 per credit tuition reimbursement for teachers to pursue College in the Schools Credentials and/or Career Technical Education certification.

— Incentivize teachers to take on additional assignments as advisers or coaches for activities and athletics.

The goal behind those provisions is to fill positions in the face of staffing shortages across the country.

In the area of health benefits, the district will increase its total premium contribution by 2.7% for individual plans, 5.2% for employee-plus-one plans, and 4.4% for family plans.

Early Childhood Program showcased

Early in the meeting, the members of the school board received gifts from Cambridge-Isanti’s incoming kindergarten class.

Kim Goodmanson, coordinator of the system’s Early Childhood Program, then talked about the five strategies that the program uses.

“We have a 5-to-1 ratio (of students to teacher) and positive attention,” she said. “We have a predictable schedule – we have routines within routines within routines – and have directed teaching expectations and directed peer-related skills.”

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