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Education

United Teachers Of Wichita, Board Of Education Reach Tentative Contract Agreement

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Steve Wentz, president of United Teachers of Wichita, said he hopes the tenative contract will help the district with teacher retention.

A 3.65 percent raise would be in store for Wichita teachers under a tentative agreement between the Wichita Board of Education and the local teachers union.

The tentative agreement for the 2018-19 school year includes a compensation package valued at 4.85 percent.

This is the first time in years that the United Teachers of Wichita and the board have reached an agreement before the start of the school year. Last year’s negotiation extended into November.

“It is refreshing to have a contract tentatively agreed to prior to going back to school,” said Steve Wentz, president of the union. “I think there are a lot of people like, ‘Wow, we’re starting off school with a contract.’

“Both sides had some courageous conversations at times, which, at times, may have been contentious. We problem-solved.”

Teachers will vote on the agreement during two in-service days later this month. A simple majority is required to pass the agreement.

If ratified by teachers, the board will vote at its meeting Aug. 27. There is the possibility the board could hold a special meeting to vote ahead of Aug. 27.

Wentz said it is critical that raises are included in agreements such as this as the district looks to increase teacher retention.

“My goal, and the superintendent's goal, is to make this … a destination district for people across the United States,” he said. “That’s eroded over the last decade or more, and we need to get back on track.”

Alicia Thompson, superintendent of the Wichita School District, agreed that retention was the prime focus of the contract.

“Our board of education instructed us clearly that investing in our staff is the most important thing,” Thompson said.

Evan Pflugradt is an intern in the KMUW News Lab. Follow him on Twitter @evPflu.