“We meet regularly with the HEA throughout the school year,” he said. “There’s a lot of mutual respect between the union and the school district.”
Hornbeck did concede, however, that some parts of the contract negotiations were “difficult,” but the school district and the HEA were able to work through them.
“Salary and benefits are some things we had to work through, but the new teachers’ evaluation was the biggest issue,” he said. “We had to work through some of the language on that.”
Although Hornbeck said the implementation of a new teachers’ evaluation system is still a couple of years away, the new way of assessing teachers — which would partly measure teacher performance based on student academic growth — has some longtime teachers concerned.
“Some teachers have been evaluated the same way for years,” he said. “The student growth part is new to us, and new is sometimes scary.”
Hornbeck said the major reason the school district and the HEA agreed on a one-year contract — rather than a three-year contract as in the past — was because of looming pension reform.
“The school district is worried about paying toward (pensions) if the state decides not to,” he said. “And teachers are concerned about paying more or losing part of their (pension) benefit.”
The Rossville-Alvin Education Association and the grade school district — which employs 23 teachers and serves 309 pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students — reached an agreement Aug. 9 on a two-year contract.
Besides teachers, the Rossville-Alvin Education Association represents the district’s school bus drivers, teachers’ aides and kitchen staff.
Superintendent Crystal Johnson said contract negotiations were amicable.
“It was a great experience,” she said.
“We were open-minded and flexible,” she said. “We used interest-based bargaining which allowed us to explain what we’re (district) faced with and what we’re planning in the future.”