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FWCS, teachers agree to raises, incentive stipends

– Teachers with positive evaluations can look forward to pay increases and stipends under a contract the Fort Wayne Community Schools board approved Wednesday.

FWCS board members and the Fort Wayne Education Association agreed to the contract that is based on new state laws regarding teacher contracts and salary increases. The new contract, which also includes changes to teachers’ health insurance, will expire June 30, 2015, board President Mark GiaQuinta said.

The agreement includes a $1,100 base wage increase for all eligible teachers beginning this school year.

It also increases new teachers’ starting salaries to $35,500 for those with bachelor’s degrees and $39,500 for those with master’s degrees, he said.

During the 2014-15 school year, those starting salaries will increase to $37,000 for teachers with bachelor’s degrees and $41,000 for those with master’s.

Teachers who are rated effective and highly effective in their evaluations will also receive an additional stipend through the federal Teacher Incentive Fund, GiaQuinta said.

FWCS received a two-year $15.3 million Teacher Incentive Fund grant from the U.S. Department of Education in September. The grant money is earmarked for teacher training and incentives.

The stipends for effective teachers will be $2,000 for the 2012-13 school year and $2,100 for the 2013-14 school year. If the grant is renewed, those teachers would receive $2,300 for the 2014-15 year.

The stipends for highly effective teachers will be $2,500 for the 2012-13 school year and $2,600 for the 2013-14 school year. If the grant is renewed, those teachers would receive $3,000 for the 2014-15 year.

But there is a catch, GiaQuinta said.

Evaluations used to determine which teachers receive the stipends are linked to school improvement data that has not been released from the state, he said.

The agreement also includes changes to health insurance for teachers and families.

The changes will increase the way coverage is split to include four tiers – employee, employee and spouse, employee and child or family – instead of two.

Health savings account contributions for a high deductible plan will be $1,000 for single and $2,000 for all other tiers both years, according to the agreement.

Spouses of new employees will not be covered if they are covered under their own employer plan.

The school district’s contribution will be reduced from the current 85 percent of the core plan to 82 percent this school year and 80 percent in 2014-15, according to the agreement.

The teachers’ co-pay will eventually be 20 percent, said Krista Stockman, district spokeswoman.

Board member Julie Hollingsworth said the pay increases and stipends for effective and highly effective teachers are sure to be welcomed by the district’s teachers. But she is frustrated with the state for not providing the information they need to be eligible for the money.

“Of course we don’t have those ratings yet, we don’t have those evaluations because we don’t have data from the state,” Hollingsworth said. “That is rather shameful, I think.”

Individual teacher data is expected to be released Sept. 9, but the state has not announced when corporation data will be released.

“It seems like every time they pass a law, they complicate something that they are trying to solve,” Hollingsworth said.