More than six months have now passed since negotiations first began, but the Park City School District administrators and the local teachers union have yet to come to an agreement on teacher contracts.
Despite an elusive resolution, teachers in every school recently attempted to make a symbolic point illustrating the amount of time they put into creating a Park City education.
In November, teachers collected their own data, counting every hour of overtime over a two-week period. In two weeks, 196 participating teachers estimated they gave a combined total of 4,638 overtime hours to the school district. For every hour of overtime, teachers donated an item on nonperishable food, creating stacks of cans and boxes in the lobbies of Park City schools.
"Teachers are working hard," said Ed Mulick, the co-president of the Park City Education Association, the union that supports local teachers. "We donate a lot of hours to make sure we provide excellent education for our students."
"It is not uncommon for teachers to work an excess of 60 hours a week," he added. "And so when I saw these numbers, it was what I anticipated. I knew because that's how much I work."
The contracts determine the pay and benefits for teachers working in the school district, but with budget issues still at the forefront of administrative efforts, coming to an agreement with teachers has proven difficult.
Last year, administrators realized that projected budgets would put the school district more than $4 million into the red, leading the school district to look at budget cuts. Along with suggesting raising local taxes, the school district implemented a salary freeze on teachers.
"I think both parties are committed to reaching a deal," Mulick said. "This all started last spring. There was a fiscal cliff, and we were headed over it. The teachers and the community were told there was going to be this $5 million deficit the school district started making these draconian cuts. They wanted to increase the cost of health insurance for teachers, take away 22 teaching positions, increase class sizes.
"Each teacher was asked to take on a bigger load, and told they would have to take a pay freeze. It was like the district wanted just us, (the teachers), to balance the budget."
The ongoing salary freeze, which is still in efsfect until teachers agree to a contract, prevents any teachers on track to receive any scheduled increases to their salary. Teacher pay in the Park City School District uses a step and lane system, where teachers receive automatic salary increases, or steps in pay, for the amount of time they have served in the school district. In addition to this pay scale, teachers are also compensated for continuing education such as taking extra classes or earning an additional degree.
According to a report released by the Utah Education Association, the parent organization to the Park City Education Association, in the 2010-11 school year Park City teacher salaries started at $38,409 for those who had earned a bachelor's degree, making it the highest starting salary for a teacher in the state. But the maximum salary for Park City teachers, $49,865, was only the 12th highest in Utah.
In order to receive a higher salary, teachers are encouraged to receive a master's degree, which in the same year had a starting salary of $42,520 and a maximum salary of $70,734, both the highest starting and maximum salaries of the 42 school districts in Utah. The state average for the most a teacher could earn with a master's degree was $57,489.
"The bottom line is there is still an ongoing dialoging," said Interim Superintendent Tom VanGorder. "We are talking about the issues that are important to both sides, but I cannot predict when a resolution will come forward."
"I think we have a great school district, great teachers, and like anyone else, I am concerned about the conditions of employment in Park City," he added.
Since April, Mulick has been sitting down with Park City School District administration in attempts to come to a deal, hoping to extending contracts to last for three years as an attempt to avoid the yearly conflicts in reaching an agreement.
"Negotiations are moving forward, but moving forward very slowly," said Park City Education Association Co-President Jim Fleming. " I think it impacts morale. People would like to get this done with. Over time, not having a contract begins to wear on people, and not just teachers but also administrators. We would like to see it get done, and it is a more complicated process because it is a multi-year agreement."
In an effort to meet the district budget concerns, teachers agreed to the pay freeze if the district considered a multi-year contract agreement that would potentially result in bonuses and salary increases in future years.
Mulick argued that the cost of living continues to rise, yet teachers in Park City have gone years without a salary increase. And this would not be the first time the teachers and administrators have been unable to reach an agreement before the school year started.
"Things are strained right now, but I have faith it will get better," Mulick said. "I want to see the relationship get better."
Teachers personally collected overtime hours over a two-week period in November.
For every hour of overtime, teachers donated a nonperishable food item.
Teachers Participating: 196
Teachers from every school were represented.
Hours of Overtime: 4,638
Average of 23.2 hours in a two week period
Average of 53 hours worked in one week.
Estimated amount in unearned wages from overtime hours over the course of one school year: $4.73 million
Information provided by the Park City Education Association
Salaries based on information from a 2010-11 school year report.
With a Bachelor's Degree:
Starting Park City teacher salaries: $38,409
The starting salary is the highest in the Utah.
State Average: $ 33,117
Maximum Park City teacher salary: $49,865
The maximum salary is the 12th highest in Utah.
State Average: $47,055
With a Master's Degree:
Starting Park City teacher salaries: $42,520
The starting salary is the highest in the Utah.
State Average: $36,290
Maximum Park City teacher salary: $70,734
The maximum salary is the highest in Utah.
State Average: $57,489
Information provided by the Utah Education Association