Pictured above: Mehlville Board of Education member Jean Pretto and CFO Marshall Crutcher discuss the 2020 budget during a board meeting June 5, 2019 at Mehlville High School. Photo by Jessica Belle Kramer.
By Gloria Lloyd
Negotiations between the Mehlville School District and teachers were extended this year due to new state laws that govern what topics can and can’t be included in the annual talks.
The Board of Education unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, with the Mehlville National Education Association in closed session June 13. Under the one-year deal, the teachers will get a typical 1.2-percent step raise plus an $800 increase to the base salary and additional money for middle- and late-career teachers, which adds up to an overall average 4-percent raise.
The MNEA teachers voted a “solid yes for ratification,” MNEA President Deana McKelvie said. She said the vote was unanimous.
Superintendent Chris Gaines said the talks were slow to get off the ground because the ground rules were harder to set this year due to a new state law governing negotiations, HB 1413 — a labor reform law that makes public labor unions get certified and seek informed consent before taking money out of workers’ paychecks. It also governs what can and can’t be in a labor agreement.
A judge issued an order in March that the state could not enforce it.
“The negotiations team and the district embarked on a new bargaining process this year and although there were some bumps in the road, the overall outcome was good,” McKelvie said.
The talks went into a second round after the two sides initially finished because the district had made an error in a column on a spreadsheet around how much money was at stake.
When the district realized the error just as school was about to adjourn for the summer, officials went back to the MNEA and opened the talks again.
“We were just honest with them, so they came back with a different proposal and kind of hem-hawed, talked about that a little bit and ended up where we are,” Gaines said.
Like the last several years, the teachers were represented at the table by a member of the Missouri NEA, while the district was represented by administrators like Chief Financial Officer Marshall Crutcher and Assistant Superintendent Jeff Bresler.
Crutcher said the raise is 4.1 percent and the total increase to payroll next year is 3.8 percent, factoring in retirement savings.
“I’m looking at total payroll, so that’s salaries, benefits, what’s the total cost of giving a raise?” Gaines said. “Not just the amount of money in people’s pocket — it costs me on retirement and these other pieces as well.”
As far as raises, Gaines said that teachers got about the same raise as classified, or non-certified, staffers like bus drivers and custodians. Administrators got about a 1.8-percent raise.
The lowest raise for a teacher will be around $1,500, while the highest will probably be about $3,000 unless someone earns a higher degree, he said.
McKelvie said that the district’s current MOU is a “work in progress” that is the “working product of several years of good faith negotiations. We expect that working relationship to continue and develop in a positive way for our kids, teachers, administrators, parents and community.”
She also said of the state law hindering negotiations, “These times are difficult and it seems that politically there are those that believe that education employees should not have the ability to negotiate for salary, benefits and working conditions. We feel very fortunate to live in a district where administration and the community think differently. We prevailed through an unprecedented difficult year.”