West Allis school district considers new non-negotiated rules

May 22, 2012

West Allis - As it considers work rules no longer negotiated through collective bargaining, the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District will consider setting a $42,000 base pay for teachers new to the district.

That issue caused no consternation during a School Board workshop last week, but the suggestion that the district formally look at withdrawing teachers' paid 30-minute lunches did.

Creating a base of operations

Since the state did away with public employee labor contracts as part of Act 10 last year, school districts have taken on the task of addressing such pay issues and creating employee handbooks to establish work rules and policies for teachers and other staff.

The $42,000 base pay would replace the pay range that new teachers get. That range is now from a low of $38,535 to a high of $46,976 for a teacher with a lot of experience. New teachers would not get less than $42,000, said Deb Rouse, director of business services.

The School Board has not decided about a teacher pay scale that had for many years offered more pay for more experience, up to a maximum. Future raises may be based on experience and other factors, Rouse said.

Lunch on whose dime?

While a base pay issue drew no criticism when it was communicated to the School Board at last week's workshop, taking away teachers' paid lunchtime raised at least one eyebrow.

"Many teachers eat at their desks working with students," School Board member Pat Kerhin noted.

The idea of unpaid lunchtime has come up in the past, said Superintendent Kurt Wachholz, adding that other districts are entertaining the idea, as well. He will return to the board with more information.

Support staff rule changes

The School Board seemed supportive of the proposed work rule changes concerning support staff, including educational aides, school cleaning staff, custodians, maintenance personnel, secretaries and full-time recreation instructors.

For one thing, the schools want to eventually go to an all part-time school cleaning staff, said Kristen Gurtner, director of human resources. That would give the district far more flexibility, she explained.

"There's not much a cleaner can do with kids in the building," Gurtner said.

The schools now have eight full-time cleaners, who would be replaced when they leave or retire by part-time people or with contracted services, Rouse said.

Ironically, while cleaners go part-time, educational aides will eventually be all full time during the school year. Those who are now at a less than that would stay that way, but new aides would be eight-hour-per-day employees, Rouse said.

The schools also would seek to eliminate overtime by contracting out, if possible, under the new employee handbook. That book also sets a dress code for support staff. It will be the same code applying to teachers.

In trying to meld together contracts for the various employee groups, the plan is to shelve automatic annual raises. Instead, employees would stay at their current pay. Raises, mainly limited to increases in the consumer price index, would be based on current pay, with additional bonus pay as a possibility later, Gurtner said.

The district also would cap vacations at four weeks. But employees with more than that can keep it, she said.

Implementing the changes

These changes are reflected in a proposed employee handbook for support staff that will likely be approved before July 1, when the contracts of all the groups except the educational aides will expire. The aides' contract has already expired.

Once the current contracts expire, the support staff will start paying 5.9 percent toward their pensions and 10 percent toward health insurance and will switch to the health plan that now affects other employees, Rouse said.

"That will help us balance the budget for next year," she said.

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