by ALEXANDRA RETTER 

Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) recently proposed salary increases of 1 percent in the first year and 0.5 percent in the second year of the 2021-2023 contract it is negotiating with the Winona Education Association (WEA) teachers’ union. 

The district’s proposal was a counteroffer to the WEA’s proposal in September of a 2 percent increase in the first year and 3 percent increase in the second year. Those increases and their associated benefits would cost about $1.6 million, according to Finance Director Sarah Slaby earlier this fall. Slaby declined to comment at this time on the cost of the proposed 1 percent and 0.5 percent increases. 

WAPS initially budgeted for raises of 0.5 to 1 percent for 2021-2022. Human Resources Director Emily Solheid reiterated at the November 15 negotiations session with the district and the WEA that the proposed 1 percent increase is in line with that budgeting. “It’s also in alignment or comparable with other employee groups in the district and how we settled with those three-year contracts, as well as with our non-affiliated groups for this school year,” she said. 

State mediation in other parts of Minnesota earlier this year led to raises that align with the WEA proposal. A city and a law enforcement union settled on a 2 percent wage increase in 2021-2022 through state mediation. In a different case, a county and a law enforcement union case had a 2 percent raise in 2020 and 2.25 percent increase in 2021 and 2022 after state mediation. Locally, the Winona County Board approved in late October a 2.5 percent increase in 2022, followed by a 3 percent increase in both 2023 and 2024, for the assistant county attorneys union. 

WEA Head Negotiator Shannon Helgeson said she felt negotiations were going well and communication was positive until the November 15 meeting. “When I look at this, my knee-jerk reaction is profound disappointment … The sadness that I feel when I look at these teachers and imagine trying to present this package to them makes me feel ashamed,” she said. 

The previous contract between the WEA and WAPS, which covers 2019-2021, had an increase greater than the district’s proposal. Those increases were 1 percent in the first year and 2.4 percent in the second year.

Keep reading the Winona Post for more updates on these continuing negotiations. 

Education@winonapost.com