Juneau School District can step away from the negotiating table for the next three years.
During Tuesday night’s school board meeting, a pair of three-year agreements with both Juneau Education Association and Juneau School Administrative Association were given their final readings and unanimously approved.
The JEA agreement calls for a raise of 1 percent in fiscal year 2020, .5 percent in ‘21, and .5 percent in ‘22. The agreement also adds a teacher workday to the calendar beginning in FY21, and an additional student day in FY22.
“This is a major piece to the backbone to our working relationship with a very important group of our employees, so I appreciate all the efforts of JEA as well as our management team during this process,” Superintendent Bridget Weiss said.
The JEA agreement took more than 76 hours of negotiations, said Darryl Smith, director of human resources, but he and incoming JEA President Kelly Stewart said it was a constructive process.
Stewart, Weiss and Smith each said they were glad to reach a multi-year agreement and that it was reached before the previous one lapsed in July.
“We were excited to not have to start the new year in the process, and we can focus on the kids,” Stewart said.
The JSAA agreement calls for a raise of 1 percent in fiscal year 2020, .5 percent in ‘21, and .5 percent in ‘22. The agreement also provides an increase to the district paid portion of health insurance of $25 per month in fiscal year 2020, $20 in ‘21, and $20 in ‘22.
“While it is a smaller group — just over 20 employees — it is a critical group,” Weiss said. “Again, a collaborative process resulting in a three-year agreement.”
While the agreements received final readings, an indigenous language revitalization policy was given its first reading.
The policy states the school board’s support for Tlingit language revitalization efforts and willingness to work with community members to further the effort. If it gets its final reading in August, it won’t mean any immediate changes in classrooms, Weiss said, but instead signifies the district’s support of revitalization.
Lingít, the Tlingit language, was among the languages declared endangered in 2018. The Endangered Languages Project estimates there are about 200 fluent speakers of Lingít worldwide. The Alaska Native Language Center similarly puts that figure at 175 speakers.
Weiss said the policy is the result of efforts by the district’s Tlingit Language Revitalization Task Force subcommittee consisting of Weiss, Short, board member Kevin Allen, Joe Nelson and Haifa Sadighi.
“The voice through this policy is a strong voice coming from us the educational agency that is often attributed and connected to the loss of the language,” Weiss said.
She said the policy is unique, and it will be shared by the Association of Alaska School Boards around the state as an example of something other schools could implement.
Allen, who is Tlingit, said he was glad to be part of the process that shaped the policy.
“I feel extremely humbled to be part of the process to make this policy,” Allen said. “I just wanted to touch on my extreme approval of seeing this policies.”
The school board also OK’d accepting the donation of two yellow cedar logs to Floyd Dryden Middle School for use in the science, technology, engineering and math program — most likely for making bentwood boxes. Bentwood boxes are a traditional Northwest Coast item that make use of steam to bend wood. The logs were donated by Ryan and Kris Dorsey, who are teachers in the Juneau School District. They were accepted unanimously.
“This is really helpful for engaging students we really need to engage,” said board member Jeff Short said.
Board Vice President Dan DeBartolo agreed.
“It’s always welcome to have donations like this,” he said.
DeBartolo used his closing remarks during the meeting to plug a Saturday workshop that will serve as a crash course for running for local office.
He said he especially hopes people consider attending the workshop because he is not planning to seek a second term on the school board.
“I hope there’s great members of the community that hope to run,” DeBartolo said.
After the meeting, he said the decision comes down to simply wanting to spend more time with his family.
“I’d love to just be at home more,” he said.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.