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Pequot Lakes teachers, school board back to negotiation table Apr. 14

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The negotiating teams for Education Minnesota Pequot Lakes and the Pequot Lakes School Board will meet for further contract negotiations Monday, April 14, after 288 days without a contract agreement.

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Until a new contract is negotiated, teachers are bound by the terms of their previous contract.

According to 2013 data gathered by the Minnesota Department of Education, the average salary of a teacher in the Pequot Lakes School District was $47,697, which fell more than $7,200 below the state average of $54,945. Pequot Lakes’ average salary trailed behind four of seven surrounding districts, including Pine River-Backus (PR-B), whose teachers made an average of $48,529. All seven area districts’ salaries were below the state average, with Crosby-Ironton coming in at the top of the list at $53,521.

Pequot Lakes was the only district of the seven surrounding surveyed that exceeded the 53.4 percent state average of core classes taught by master’s degree teachers, by nearly 6 percent. The next closest was Crosby-Ironton, falling 1.6 percent short of the state average. In PR-B, 37 percent of core classes were taught by teachers with master’s degrees, 16 percent below average.

The percentage of teachers in Pequot Lakes with more than 10 years of experience also exceeded the state average, 68.7 percent compared to the statewide 63.8 percent. This placed it third among the seven surrounding districts, with only Staples-Motley and Walker-Hackensack-Akeley each sporting a higher percentage.

In comparison, 56 percent of teachers at PR-B had more than 10 years of experience in 2013, 7.6 percent below the state average.

Pequot Lakes union president Kim Johnson said the Pequot Lakes teachers have accepted soft freezes on their salaries for the past six years, although this does not account for the increases built into the 25 “steps and lanes” levels, based on longevity and education levels.

Both the school board and union have expressed their desire for a civil and fair negotiation process.

“We all hope to accomplish a settlement that honors our teachers and all the hard work they do, and at the same time, keeps us fiscally responsible,” said Superintendent Chris Lindholm.

Chelsey Perkins can be reached at chelsey.perkins@pineandlakes.com. Follow her at facebook.com/PEJChelsey and on Twitter @PEJ_Chelsey.

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