The Ridgefield School District (RSD) began classes Tuesday, Sept. 4, after a contract involving salary increases was ratified on Labor Day.
According to the RSD, teacher pay will increase from an average of $63,717 last school year to $74,066 for 2018-2019. That number would increase to $80,323 in 2020-2021, a more than 26 percent increase overall.
The ratified salary schedule would have brand-new teachers in the district with just a bachelor’s degree earning $48,346 annually while teachers at the high end of the schedule, those with a master’s degree and 90-plus credit hours of additional education, earning $95,788. Those numbers would increase to $50,774 and $100,598 in the 2020-2021 school year, respectively.
Salary increases weren’t the only changes to the ratified contract, as class sizes, another focus of the Ridgefield Education Association (REA), also received tweaks. Incoming REA President Alan Adams explained in an email that first- through third-grade class sizes would see specific reductions, dropping from 23 to 21 students in first grade through the course of the agreement, 24 to 22 in second grade and 25 to 22 in third grade.
Adams added that at middle and high school levels there is now a cap of 35 students per classroom, an improvement over the old stipulation that there be an average of 30 students per class in middle school and 31-per in high school.
“There could be great variation in the actual numbers from class to class” in the old model, Adams wrote.
Other changes Adams identified included improving teachers’ input on selecting curriculum for the district, as well as lowering caseloads for special education teachers and guaranteeing paraprofessional support for “self contained” special education classrooms.
At Experience Ridgefield last weekend, a RSD event, Superintendent Nathan McCann said it felt “fantastic” that school had been back in session for a few days before the annual carnival.
McCann thanked both bargaining teams for working through the Labor Day weekend for getting the contracts agreed upon, noting that it was 4 a.m. on that Monday that a tentative agreement had been reached.
McCann felt that, especially during the contentious final days of bargaining, both sides of the negotiation were able to “stop and listen” to come to consensus. He commented on how school was able to start barely 24 hours after that tentative agreement was achieved.
“That’s a tribute to our teachers and all of our staff,” McCann said. “They were willing and able to start (the school year) up on literally a moment’s notice.”
“It’s been a wonderful first week,” McCann remarked.
Students in the Hockinson School District started the new school year Sept. 4 as well after teachers voted unanimously on a new two-year contract.
According to the district, teachers will receive a 14.5 percent increase in 2018-2019 and another 2 percent increase in 2019-2020. Average salaries now range from $49,578 to $93,445.
Teachers also voted to lower class sizes in kindergarten through fifth grade and to provide paraeducator support for special education teachers.