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First Contract Under New Bargaining Rules Making Indianola Teachers Nervous

INDIANOLA, Iowa -- The contract between Indianola Schools and their teachers is set to expire at the end of this school year, and their new contract could look vastly different.

With new collective bargaining laws established by the legislature, school districts are now only required to collectively bargain starting salaries with the teachers union. Union representative Peter Clancy says that is leaving Indianola teachers with the questions instead of the answers.

“Questions on leave, different things related to evaluations, a lot of the other benefits, the things that provide the incentives to attract and retain high quality educators are what would be removed from the contract,” said Clancy.

The union says with the district setting the rules on these items, also called permissibles, it allows districts to reduce costs. The Indianola School District says it allows them to operate more effectively, like when trying to make up snow days.

“We have a limit on the amount of time teachers can work with students in a day in our master contract. So in order to lengthen the school day to make up some of that time so we don’t just tack on additional days at the end of the year, we have to go through a process and get permission from the association to look at doing that,” said Indianola Schools Superintendent Art Sathoff.

Any permissible left out of the contract would be established by the district in an employee handbook which could be changed at any time. The union feels that impacts the security teachers have.

“Teachers that have been working there for 20-30 years some of them, could lose their medical benefits, parts of their insurance, anything that has led them to a long career in Indianola,” said Clancy.

The school board's initial contract proposal eliminates all the permissive language. Clancy says he dealt with a similar situation while he taught in Cedar Rapids.

“It was crushing, to me and to all my colleagues that said, you know, ‘this is really just a slap in the face to us as educators,’” said Clancy.

Meanwhile, the union's initial proposal kept all the permissive language, and according to Sathoff, added some. He believes an agreeable deal can be reached.

“I'm not going to minimize how people are feeling. It's a huge change. I understand why there could be concerns. I personally don't believe it's as binary as we're hearing, where you will have permissive language, or you don’t value teachers and you're going to ruin the school,” said Sathoff.

The next bargaining section is scheduled for March 6.

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