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Students head from buses into Murphysboro Middle School on the first day of school in August.

MURPHYSBORO — Melida Pierson is now able to say four words she’s been waiting to say for months: “We have a contract.”

Pierson is the union vice president for the Murphysboro Education Association and she said her team has been trying to settle a deal since the end of last school year. She said their one-year contracts typically begin Aug. 15, and this year they had started the school year without one.

The new deal saw Murphysboro teachers get a 2.25 percent pay increase “on the cell,” which applies to each pay level based on experience and other factors, as opposed to the base salary. The deal is also retroactive to Aug. 15, meaning they'll get back pay for the time they worked without a contract.

Pierson said the district has also agreed to give each teacher $700 in a flexible spending account to help offset the costs of rising health care. She said these accounts were always an option, but were previously entirely teacher-funded. Now they get a boost from the district.

“We moved in the right direction,” Pierson said of the negotiations. She said the pay raise and health care assistance were the big stumbling block in negotiations previously.

The MEA voted last month to give the union the authority to call a strike should an agreement not be reached on their contract and, in a last-ditch effort to negotiate, the two sides came to an agreement Oct. 2. The board ratified the contract Tuesday.

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isaac.smith@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

On Twitter: @ismithreports

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Isaac Smith is a reporter covering Jackson County.

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