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CdA schools employees take cuts, preserve jobs

Teachers, librarians and counselors in the Coeur d’Alene School District have voted to take pay and benefit cuts to save jobs.

Nurse’s aides, classroom assistants and other support staff who faced unemployment will keep their jobs, said Steve Briggs, chief financial officer.

“It’s a very positive result,” he said. “The goal of saving jobs was accomplished.”

Teachers and certified staff whose contacts called for 5 percent raises next year agreed to scale those back, taking only 2.5 percent increases. Additionally, they approved an increase their insurance premium contribution by 3 percent during a vote Thursday night, said Paula Marano, president of the Coeur d’Alene Education Association.

“I feel relieved,” she said. “Because of the economic situation we were worried about the fallout.”

The wage and benefit concessions will save the district more than $2.4 million. The district still has a $2.7 million gap to fill.

Reductions still are planned in the advanced learning and remedial programs, and the travel moratorium remains in place, school officials said. Athletic teams won’t attend invitational tournaments, which saves on transportation costs. Also, the district will not buy new math books during the 2009-10 school year.

Before the district’s certified staff could agree to reductions in their pay, Superintendent Hazel Bauman had to declare a financial emergency. She did that earlier Thursday during a meeting with the school board.

A new state law allows school districts to reopen teacher contracts to negotiate adjustments in pay, hours or contract length under such emergencies. School administrators and union leaders collaborated to make the decision, officials said.

Marano, who represents about 1,200 educators, said, “Part of the consensus was the hope that we’d be able to help.”

But the district specified early on they wanted to save people over stuff. The union clearly agreed.

“We are in the business of educating children,” Marano said. “We have to keep that in mind.”

Another thing the union was mindful of was the effect on the community if they cut staff. “We appreciate the community continuing to support our levies,” Marano said.

In April, voters approved a $7.8 million-a-year levy for the next two years.

“It’s better than what they thought it would be,” said Marano of the contract’s end result. “One educator said: ‘I feel like I’m in a dream, and this is a really happy dream.’ ”