Teachers pleased with minor gains in new five-year contract with Sask. Rivers Public School Division

Teacher negotiation team Chair Troy Parenteau (bottom right) and the school division's Director of Education Robert Bratvold (top right) and other negotiators following the ratification of a new five-year contract. (Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division/Submitted)

Local teachers and the Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division have ratified a new five-year contract.

Changes include more recognition for extra-curricular hours, a boost to the bursary fund that reimburses teachers on some of their training costs and an added teacher position to the Professional Development committee.

Chair of the teacher negotiation team, Troy Parenteau, said the teachers are happy with the balanced outcome.

“We each kind of had a couple of things that we wanted to work on and we’d have conversations around possible solutions or things that we were maybe a little apprehensive about, but it was always constructive and we always felt that the other side was acting with good interest,” he said.

The school division’s Director of Education Robert Bratvold echoed Parenteau’s thoughts on the process.

“During the negotiations our teams sometimes identified different priorities, but we discussed them openly and constructively to find the common ground. Together we found enhancements that help improve the working environment for teachers and the learning environment for students, while respecting the financial realities of the school division,” said Bratvold in a news release.

Parenteau said the school division will be recognizing extra-curricular hours at a growing rate of about 50 hours per half of a day. Instead of recognizing 250 hours per two and a half days, they’re now recognizing 300.

“That’s a positive thing. When teachers are putting in a lot of time and that time gets recognized, I think it’s a win-win.”

Additionally, teachers will be getting a larger reimbursement on their own education costs.

“When teachers have the ability to get more training, that of course is going to go into the classroom. Whether it’s a masters or special ed certificate, the more training teachers have, the better they are to educate the youth,” said Parenteau.

Another important addition to the contract, he explained, is that teachers will have more of a voice on the Professional Development committee. Professional Development funds are allocated to each of the schools, which decide how the money will be distributed.

Parenteau said they’ll now have two teachers on the committee instead of one.

“When teachers feel valued, I think that that will have an impact on students in the classroom. When people are valued in a workplace, they definitely put more of themselves into the job.”

The agreement will be in effect from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2024.

Parenteau emphasized the minor gains are coming during a time of little movement in the provincial budget for education.

The negotiation process began last spring before the previous contract expired. They reached a tentative agreement in late August.

Teachers voted on the tentative agreement in mid-September, with 81 per cent in support of the new contract.

Factors such as health care and salary are negotiated at the provincial level.