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updated: 11/2/2011 5:22 PM

Cary teachers finally have contract

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Cary teachers and the Cary Elementary District 26 school board have finalized a three-year agreement that both sides say will shore up the district's finances for the next few years.

The Cary Education Association ratified the contract Tuesday and the board of education followed suit later that night, unanimously approving the contract.

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The new contract includes a 3 percent pay cut for the 2011-2012 school year and a pay freeze over the remaining two years, a news release from the district Wednesday morning said.

Teachers may receive pay raises for lane changes for additional course work but will not receive step, or longevity increases, automatically, the release said.

The new agreement also lengthens the school day half an hour to 6 hours and 15 minutes. Student instruction time will increase by 30 minutes compared to the 2010-2011 school year. District officials said the new daily schedule is expected to take effect after the Thanksgiving break.

Additionally, tuition reimbursement and the retirement package that gave retiring teachers 6-percent raises for each of their last four years, a $20,000 lump sum upon retirement and $10 per day for unused sick days, have been eliminated.

"These negotiations have taken a long time to complete -- since November 2010 in fact -- in large measure because of the very serious financial challenges faced by the district," board President Chris Spoerl said. "These were not easy labor talks, but the board is confident that the new agreement will help put the district on a more stable financial ground for the next three years."

CEA co-Presidents Julia Curry and Elaine O'Donnell, in a news release, said they are relieved for closure and are thankful for the negotiating team's work in the past year.

"It is time to recognize that the CEA is committed to and has contributed to helping put the district on a more stable financial footing by agreeing to concessions in salary and benefits in order to reinstate special programs and reduce class size," the release said. "It is now time to move ahead and focus on educational priorities for this District."

But before specials like art and music return to classrooms, Spoerl said the district must first take care of capital needs and balance its budget.

"This is a step in the process, a big step," Spoerl said. "There is definitely talk about bringing back specials, but it has to make sense."

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