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New Richmond teachers not the only ones without contract

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As negotiations between the teachers' union and the New Richmond School District continue, School Board member Chris Skoglund remains optimistic.

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"We are still making progress," Skoglund said. "I am definitely pleased that communications are still good between the District and the teachers."

At this point the District has presented the teachers' union with wage proposals and the groups are discussing how to address the rising cost of health care as well as retirement issues.

"It's going very well," said Morrie Veilleux, New Richmond School District administrator. "Both sides are listening and working together."

Veilleux said they are in a middle ground right now as far as wages are concerned.

The District is looking to the teachers' union to help "find ways to be more efficient through changes in health plan designs," etc. to keep costs under control, Veilleux said.

Similarly, the two sides are discussing retirement language in the contract to "try to make the best use of tax dollars," according to Veilleux.

In the majority

The majority of teacher contracts in this area (western Wisconsin) have not been settled yet, according to Brett Pickerign, one of the directors of the Unified Service Area of Western Central Education Association, a regional office of the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC).

"We like to get contracts settled before the contracts expire or before we are well into the time frame of the contract," Pickerign said.

But he admitted that bargaining is getting more difficult when issues like rising health care costs, revenue caps and wages must be taken into consideration.

"The trend is toward slower negotiations," Pickerign said.

While it may seem like the New Richmond teachers have been waiting quite awhile for a 2007-09 contract, they are actually among the the majority of teachers in this part of the state.

Locally, of the eight schools in the Middle Border Conference, half have reached contract agreements, while the other four have not. Amery, Durand, Baldwin and Somerset have new contracts while Prescott, Osceola, Ellsworth and New Richmond remain in negotiations.

Another meeting between the teachers' union and the District has been scheduled for Feb. 26 at 6 p.m., according to Skoglund. Skoglund, Greg Gartner and Bryan Schafer are the Board members on the teacher personnel committee which handles the contract negotiations.

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