BY MICHAEL WALTON
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Members of Traverse City Area Public Schools' largest union are preparing to vote on a contract proposal.
Representatives from TCAPS and the Traverse City Educators Association, which represents about 550 teachers, nurses, social workers and counselors, discussed contract terms with a state mediator for about five hours Tuesday. TCAPS officials said the two parties are close to reaching an agreement.
"It went very well," TCAPS Human Resources Executive Director Christine Davis said. "Both parties worked collaboratively to get a contract and the union is bringing a proposal to the membership soon for a vote."
TCEA President Mary McGee-Cullen said the TCEA will hold its next general membership meeting in the "near future." She declined to discuss specifics of the most recent proposal.
"We need to let our members get this information before we discuss anything publicly," she said.
TCEA members marched around the TCAPS administration building as Tuesday morning's negotiation session began. McGee-Cullen said more than 400 union members were in attendance.
"I would say they were there showing their support for the bargaining team," McGee-Cullen said.
The newest proposal, which is available on the district's website, covers two years and includes 1 percent annual raises, horizontal movement for educational credits and a one-year step increase in the 2013-14 school year. Employees will have to receive either a highly effective or effective rating on their annual evaluations to qualify for an additional step increase in 2014-15.
The proposal also includes details about how TCAPS and employees will split any additional healthcare insurance costs.
Contract proposals must be approved by a majority of voting TCEA members and TCAPS' Board of Education before the deal is finalized.
The current contract between the TCEA and the district expires Saturday, but union members will continue to work under terms of the old contract if an agreement is not reached before then.
TCAPS officials did finalize a contract agreement this week with one of the district's other union groups: the Traverse City Administrators' Association, which represents principals, assistant principals and other building-level administrators.
TCAPS board members unanimously approved a two-year agreement with the TCAA Monday night. The agreement is similar to the proposal before the TCEA. It also includes 1 percent annual raises -- TAA employees received no raises in each of the last three years -- and a clause which requires administrators to receive either a highly effective or effective rating on their annual evaluations in order to move up the longevity schedule.
Additional compensation for holding academic degrees -- like $500 for a master's degree and $2,000 for a doctorate degree -- remains in the TCAA contract.