Monday night, February 13, the Indianola CSD School Board approved a two-year contract with the Indianola Education Association. The IEA membership had ratified the tentative agreement on Thursday afternoon. The contract is a total package settlement of 1.98% for each year. Total package includes all costs of employment to the district, such as insurance, FICA, and IPERS. The salary increase for the first year is 1.46%.

Indianola Education Association President John Kaale commented on the agreement: “The spirit of cooperation, between the school district and the association, that made this agreement possible is among Indianola’s proudest traditions.”

Indianola CSD Superintendent Art Sathoff commented on the settlement: “It was a win-win with both sides at the table understanding some unique pressures this year, showing empathy for each other, and reaching a very good agreement. The district is under some budget pressure due to an unusual decline in certified enrollment that will result in limited new money next year. The association faces a lot of uncertainty with regard to collective bargaining and sweeping changes proposed by the Legislature. This settlement provides some economic relief to the district and some peace of mind to our teachers.”

The school district and the Indianola Education Association have had a positive bargaining relationship during the tenure of the people who are now involved with the process. Assistant Superintendent Ron Lorenz, who has been the district’s chief negotiator the last five years, makes this comment about the important relationship between the district and its teachers: “Negotiations between the district and the IEA have always been amicable. Even though we all have a different role to play, everyone wants what is best for students. Administrators want teachers to get a fair deal and Association leaders want the district to continue to be financially healthy. At the end of the day there has never been any question that we are all on the same team.”

Greta Southall was new to the chief negotiator role for the association this year, and she has the unique experience of management experience as a City Council member while sitting on “the other side of the table” for teacher negotiations. Greta commented on this year’s negotiations experience this way: “We went into this year’s negotiations with fairness at the center. We wanted to be fair to the District, to honor their commitment to fiscal responsibility and ensure that our District remains financially sound. We wanted to be fair to our professionals, to provide them with the compensation, support, and security they deserve. Preserving the language of the Master Contract and all of the protections and benefits it affords our members was important to us. Our focus on fairness allowed us to reach an agreement that benefits everyone in an efficient manner. ”

Any successful negotiation requires not only a lot of conversation but also a lot of number crunching. The costing of a settlement can be complex because it includes different factors like aging the salary schedule for employee experience, factoring in insurance increases, adding supplementary funds called the Teacher Salary Supplement from the state, and computing employer contributions to FICA and IPERS. Both the school district and the association have numbers people they rely upon. Veteran Educator Steve Baltes was the association’s chief negotiator for years, and he stayed involved with negotiations this year by being the association’s key numbers person. For the district School Business Official Johna Clancy navigated the complexities of costing the agreement, assuring that both sides were working with the same numbers and showing what different potential settlements would cost. Baltes and Clancy commented on their work to reach this agreement: “Steve and I talked about and reviewed different scenarios looking at the salary increase each staff member will receive. I appreciate Steve’s history on the negotiating team. He knows what has worked in the past and is open to looking at different ideas,” Johna remarked.
“Johna and I met and shared several settlement options. We talked through several scenarios, always keeping in mind what was best for the Indianola School District, teachers and associates,” Steve added.

In the end both the school district and the teachers’ association were satisfied with the agreement that was reached. In an age when the national narrative about public education is often negative and our society seems increasingly polarized, the school district was pleased to support teachers and education associates with a two-year agreement that includes modest raises. During a time when state funding for education is at all-time lows and locally there was an unusual decline in enrollment, the education association sought security over economic advancement and assisted the district in working through a tough budget year.

The system of bargaining is, by design, somewhat adversarial. However, great respect and appreciation exists between “management” and “labor” in the Indianola Community School District, which benefits everybody involved. Ultimately, the district’s students and the community are better served when there is a positive climate and healthy working relationships in the schools.