He doesn’t attend meeting but submits letter indicating he’d resign if board approved contract

    The Crookston School Board Monday evening approved a two-year contract with the teacherss bargaining unit, the Crookston Education Association in a packed New Paths Area Learning Center room. The vote was 3 to 1 and resulted in the resignation of board member Robin Brekken.   

    Board chair Frank Fee read a letter from Brekken, who was not present, which stated that if the board approved the contract he would resign. The board pondered waiting until the next meeting on June 23 to accept Brekken's resignation, but after a brief discussion they added it to Monday's meeting agenda and voted to accept it.    

    "Robin and I differed on this, but we agreed on most things," said Fee. "I appreciate his friendship. He felt he had the carpet pulled out from under him."   

    "I want to go on the record saying how much Robin is appreciated for all the years of service," added board member Dave Davidson. "How many years has he been on?"   

    "The same as me, two terms," answered Fee. "Or six and a half years."    

    "Robin had his kids in mind and not only his kids, but all kids when he thought about his intentions here," added board member Adrianne Winger.

Deal details   

    The CEA Master Agreement calls for no teacher salary increase in the first year and a 2.5 percent increase in the second year. In the first year, the 45 teachers of the 97 on staff who previously reached the top "step" in regards to their experience and, therefore, no longer receive wage increases related to seniority milestones reached, will receive a one-time $1,000 stipend.     

    The teachers' health insurance package was the primary sticking point during negotiations dating back many months. In the new contract, for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years, the high-premium, low-deductible package known as the "first-dollar plan" will no longer be offered to new hires as of July 1, 2014 and will sunset at that point. Teachers already on the first-dollar plan, whether it is an individual or family plan, will be able to keep it. As part of the new contract, teachers on the first-dollar plan will pay 5 percent more for it and the other half of the teaching staff is on an individual or family version of the Health Savings Account (HSA) plan.    

    The board hopes the CEA will educate those on moving to the HSA plan. They also want to set up an insurance committee so this process doesn't become as confusing as it has.    

    "I just want to review that there's a need to modify and save us money," said board member Keith Bakken, who voted against the contract. "We have a savings of $35,000, but we spent $109,000. Going forward we won't be able to get ahead. You wouldn't buy something in the store if it were marked up three times its value."    

    "Our district can't afford to not settle," said Davidson. "Nobody's really jumping up and down saying 'We won! We won!' Even though I can't vote, I think the board should agree because it's fair and we could move on."    

    Davidson abstained from voting because his wife is on the teaching staff. Brekken, the chair of the board's Negotiations Committee, wouldn't have voted, either, for the same reason.   

    "We'll both walk away grumbling, but this is as good as it gets," added board member Tim Dufault. "We can't spend another three, four, five months. Let's just approve it."