Teachers, school board approve contract

Lisa Hammer

    Teacher negotiations have been completed in Cambridge with joint approval of a three-year contract giving teachers a 3.4 percent increase the first year. Both the school board and the Cambridge Education Association have approved the agreement.

    For the second and third year, there will be 5.25 percent hikes, which will be the net increase after STEP increases--or negotiated increase based on years with the district--are calculated.

    "The 5.25 percent includes STEP," said Superintendent Steve Fink.

    The district will also pay 100 percent of single premium health insurance the first year, and half of any increase that occurs the second and third years of the contract, which is similar to the agreement for the three-year contract now ending.

    The two principals were also given 3.4 percent raises for the coming year, as were "educational service personnel" including office staff, classroom aides, bus drivers, cooks and custodians.

    Federal funding for Title 1 reading and math will take a 9.2 percent cut from $98,000 to $89,000 this coming year, according to grade school principal Shelly Logston.

    In all, entitlement funding will drop from $137,839 this past school year to $126,015 because the district had fewer low-income students as of the 2000 census. Local money will be spent to make up the shortage in the reading and math program. After the meeting, Fink said the federal funds have been decreasing since 2003.

    "Title 1 is the one that's taken the huge hit," said Logston. "Title 1 programs are so needed that it's worth it to try to offset it by local funds."

    Board members learned the Friday night eighth grade promotion ceremony will be replaced with an awards ceremony. Junior/senior high principal Robert Reagan said details including whether it would be held during the school day or at night have not been determined.

    Rising costs of milk, bread and general food costs were cited in raising breakfast and lunch prices. Student lunch prices will rise 25 cents to $1.75 at the grade school and up 20 cents to $2 at the junior/senior high. Breakfast prices rose 25 cents in both buildings, to $1.25 at the grade school and to $1.50 at the high school. Milk rises a nickel to 30 cents.

    The board also raised school registration fees, from $30 to $35. Fink noted Cambridge remains the lowest in the area with others anywhere from $45 to $70.

    The board changed two junior high sports--football and girls' volleyball--into school-sponsored activities and then approved a two-year football co-op program with Orion, due to low student numbers at the junior high. Practices and most games will be in Orion.

    Board president Ken Krueger explained the co-op had been discussed at an earlier meeting with both schools' administrators, current and previous coaches and athletic directors. The change was approved without discussion.

    Federal laws require the school to have the same number of sports programs for both genders.

    Krueger also suggested the principals report next month on the progress of implementing "Power School," which puts students' grades on-line for parents.

    "We'll see if we're on target in July and if not, commit more resources so we're up and running in the fall," he said. "We want to make it work."

    Cambridge will make use of $12,980 in state money for pre-K, according to Logston. The money has to be spent by August. She said when the state called to offer the extra money, she asked whether anyone ever turns it down.

    "They said, 'You'd be surprised,'" she said. She explained some districts apparently don't try to offer summer programs.

    Reagan shared a letter from the state board of education encouraging the school with its "social and emotional learning" program.

    Cambridge will start the second year of the pilot program that includes junior high and freshman advising, a parent facilitator and incorporates students' social needs into the curriculum. The first year's $8,800 grant.

    The board also:

    •Approved an amended budget and learned the school will end the year with revenue of $4,616,690 and expenses of $4,563,900 for a $52,790 surplus.

    •Hired Anna Swanson to teach fifth grade; Khloe Westfall as junior/senior high p.e. teacher and Leanne Walsh as high school cheerleading sponsor.

    •Raised substitute pay from $69 to $75.

    •Accepted resignations from distance learning facilitator Karen Brandau, grade school teacher Amanda Pickett and assistant football coach Eric Vroman.

    •Learned negotiations are ongoing for Henry-Stark special ed teachers.

    •Approved joining the Southern Illinois Public Cooperative for green custodial supplies.