JSD negotiations underway; 2013 spring break in question

The Juneau School district is negotiating two contracts this year, representing the vast majority of district employees.

The Juneau Education Support Staff presented its proposal yesterday (Tuesday), calling for a new three-year contract as well as increases in wages and health benefits.

JESS is represented by the American Federation of Teachers. Spokesman Pete Ford says the 300 members of JESS are the lowest paid in the district. The union is asking for a 15 percent wage increase over three years, beginning with 4 percent in July of this year, 5 percent next year, and 6 percent in 2014.

Ford says the union realizes the district expects to be facing less revenue from the state and could propose options, particularly annual leave.

“We did propose to open those articles in the event we are persuaded that we are really are looking at a bad money situation, to perhaps offset a lack of raises with more benefits in the area of paid time off,” Ford says.

He says the union is also concerned about what he calls the “McDonaldization” of support staff positions. He says members want assurance the district will protect JESS positions “from being reduced in hours, protect our positions from being filled by hourly non-bargaining unit positions, protect our positions from just being eroded as we feel has been happening to some degree over the last several years.”

JESS includes such jobs as administrative and office assistants, classroom aides, technology specialists, and custodial staff. The current contract expires on June 30th.

District Human Resources Director Phil Bedford says the district will present its counter proposal the next time the two sides meet, early next month.

The Juneau teachers’ contract also expires this year. Bedford says bargaining begins January 19th with the Juneau Education Association, which represents more than four hundred teachers.

“We’ve met a couple times to set dates and establish ground rules, but we’ll actually begin negotiations on the 19th,” he says.

Meanwhile, the Juneau school board is considering a proposal to do away with the March spring break next year.

The district calendar for the 2012-13 school year shows two options: eliminating the week-long spring break, which would add 25 hours of instruction prior to the standardized tests students take each spring. That’s option B and it calls for getting out of school a week earlier, on May 17.

Option A includes the traditional spring break, with school ending on May 24.

The proposals can be found at juneaschools.org.

The school board is taking public comments on the options. They can be emailed to calendar@jsd.k12.ak.us. The board will not vote on the proposal until next month.

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