Update: March 25, 2024

March 25, 2025

Today, the District negotiations team and the Bemidji Education Association (BEA) negotiations team met for a fourth mediation session regarding a collective bargaining agreement for the period of July 1, 2023, through June 30, 2025. The mediation session was facilitated by a mediator from the Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS).

The negotiations teams have reached a tentative agreement for terms and conditions of employment covering the 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 school years.

The next steps involve presenting the tentative agreement for consideration by members of the BEA and the School Board.

What are the district’s goals in negotiations?

  • Total Package Settlement must fit within the limits of new state revenue in order to not result in cuts to programs or people. 
  • Improve entry level salary (our base wage is below where we need to be and not competitive in recruiting new talent). 
  • Reduce absences 
  • Improve related service stipends for School Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, Licensed School Nurses, and Speech Language Pathologists. 
  • Create a “stretch calendar” for specified related services positions. 
  • Create an incentive/stipend for Career and Technical Education Licensure. 
  • Maintain School Board/Management Rights
  • Return of 50% of restricted staff development dollars to the General Fund. 
  • Compliance with new state statutes. 
  • Avoid staff and program reductions as a result of pay settlements that exceed projected new state revenue.

How does the teacher salary schedule at Bemidji Area Schools stack up with traditional comparables and neighboring districts?

Due to the fact that each district has a different number of contract days, we compare based on a daily rate to factor in these changes. Teacher Contracts are set up with credit for steps which give credit for years worked in the district or allowable transfers from other districts and lanes which are awarded based on educational attainment. Historically we have compared based on the starting rate, a teacher with a Masters Degree at step 12, a teacher with a Masters Degree plus 20 credits at step 12, and the maximum annual salary. 

Summary: We are not as competitive as we should be in the base where we bring in new teachers. Bemidji ranks #9 of 10 in the traditional comparables and #4 of 8 in the neighboring districts. We are highly competitive in the rest of the salary schedule. In the mid career section of the salary schedule we rank #1 for both traditional comparables and neighboring schools. At the end of career maximum area we rand #5 of 10 for traditional comparables and #1 with neighboring districts. The district has determined that increasing base salary is a strategic goal in creating a competitive salary schedule.

Traditional Comparables:

What has taken place so far in negotiations?

Bemidji Education Association (BEA)

May 10, 2023 – First meeting

June 6, 2023 – Second meeting

July 12, 2023 – Third meeting

July 26, 2023 – Fourth meeting

August 3, 2023 – Fifth meeting

August 25, 2023 – Sixth meeting

August 31, 2023 – Seventh meeting – “Offer for Settlement”

October 2, 2023 – Eighth meeting – Mutual Agreement to File for Contract Mediation

November 16, 2023 – First Mediation Session

December 19, 2023 – Second Mediation Session

January 30, 2024 – Third Mediation Session – ISD#31 Negotiators Accepted BEA Contract Proposal

February 16, 2024- BEA Membership voted down the Tentative Agreement 

Contract negotiations between Bemidji Area Schools and the Bemidji Education Association (BEA) have been conducted within the Interest-Based Collective Bargaining (IBCB) model for over a decade.  The IBCB model allows the parties to identify “Issues” and work towards solutions as an alternative to traditional “positional” bargaining.  During negotiations for the July 1, 2023, through June 30, 2025, contract term, the parties agreed to request a mediator from the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS) to guide the IBCB process due to the number of individuals at the table who have never been involved in a negotiations process using the IBCB model.  Serena Vergin, Mediator, was assigned by the BMS.  Ms. Vergin was present for all negotiations meetings and was assigned by BMS as the Mediator following submission of the request for contract mediation.

During the IBCB process, the negotiations teams discussed seventeen (17) “issues” and reached agreement on a resolution or agreed to set aside the “issue” relating to thirteen of the identified “issues”.  Therefore, the mediation process focused on the four remaining “open issues”.  The remaining “open issues” included: base salary adjustment, new teacher salary, retirement investment contributions/District match, and extra-curricular salaries.

Key Date: August 31, 2023

On August 31, 2023, the District negotiations team proposed an “Offer for Settlement”.  The offer for settlement was made by the District as a good faith effort to present a proposal that could be presented to membership and implemented within the first month of the new school year.  The offer for settlement was rejected by the BEA Negotiations Council and was not presented to the BEA membership for consideration.

Key Date: January 30, 2024

At approximately 7:40 p.m. during the third mediation session, Ms. Vergin provided the District negotiators with a settlement proposal from the BEA negotiations team.  After determining that the proposal was within the parameters that have been established by the School Board, the District negotiators advised Ms. Vergin that the District would accept the BEA team’s proposal and understood that the proposed contract would be presented by all parties “with recommendation for approval”.  Ms. Vergin had the BEA and District negotiators meet in a joint session to review the proposal and verify that all parties agreed that the proposal would be recommended for approval.

Following the third mediation session, the BEA notified the District that they would take the tentative agreement through the required process for consideration and that a membership vote had been tentatively scheduled for February 16, 2024.  The District was later informed that the BEA membership had voted down the tentative agreement that was originally proposed by the BEA negotiations team during mediation.

What is the difference between the teacher’s proposal and the district proposal?

The School District accepted a proposal from BEA on January 30th. This meant that both sides of the negotiations table came to an agreement on a proposal. This proposal was voted down by BEA Membership and therefore we do not have different proposals to compare. The next step will be to schedule a meeting between both parties to determine next steps. 

Detail of proposal (requires Adobe Reader):

AGREEMENT 2023-2025 XXX.pdf
MOU Staff Development Reserve.pdf
MOU Parent Engagement Time.pdf

Summary of Proposal that BEA Membership Voted Down:

Year 1 salary Improvement: $2,250 dollars on each cell of the salary schedule. Removal of the BA 0 in an effort to increase base pay. Year 2: 4% increase on the salary schedule.

Current Year 1Year 2
MA/step 12$73,770$76,020$79,061
MA+20/Step 12$83,696$85,945$89,383

  • HCSP (District Health Insurance Contribution not used for premiums) Cap: Moved from $5,000 to $8,540. 
  • 403B: Lifetime match from $40,000 to 60% of the MA/12 ($51,582-year 1 and $53,645 year 2). 
  • Increase staff development rate of pay from $30/hour to $50/hour. 
  • Extracurricular: $200 per cell year 1, and 4% year 2.
  • Elimination of Discretionary Personal Leave then adding $25 per cell on salary schedule.

How has funding from the state and teacher salary increases changed over time?

The words “historic funding” have been used to describe the dollars going to schools from the last legislative session. While it is true that these investments are historic, in that it is more than normal, the effects of the funding coming to schools is certainly being exaggerated. This “historic funding” has also come with historical levels of mandates for future spending. Additional expenses being passed on to schools such as summer unemployment costs, potential future losses in e-rate and compensatory aid, and safe and sick leave costs are projected to negatively impact future budgets.  

When comparing over time, state aid has not kept up with inflation. State aid increases from 2005-2023 have averaged 1.52%. Over that same period, the district has given an average increase of 2.02% for teachers. Both state aid and teacher compensation has been below the average Consumer Price Index (CPI) of 2.6% for this time period. 

Current Negotiations are for the 2023-2025 school years. The CPI for this time period is 2.9%, with state aid averaging 3% (4% year 1, and 2% year 2).

What is the current status of negotiations?

The District and BEA have set up a meeting for March 25, 2024 starting at 8am in the district office to continue the negotiations process.