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Superior School Board OKs health insurance, handbooks

Teachers and support staff in the Superior school district are going through changes, but one thing will stay the same. The Superior School Board voted Tuesday to retain its health insurance carrier, HealthPartners.

Teachers and support staff in the Superior school district are going through changes, but one thing will stay the same. The Superior School Board voted Tuesday to retain its health insurance carrier, HealthPartners.

Originally, the board proposed switching to Medica because an optional higher-premium plan would cost employees $1,000 less for the year. Staff representatives recommended staying with HealthPartners.

"I feel a lot of fear out there," board member Christina Kintop said. "I understand the fear. I want you to understand that the board is trying to make the best decision for everyone."

Personal stories about the high cost of health care and its impact on staff and their families haunted Kintop after last week's committee of the whole meeting.

"Those heartfelt stories are the reason we went back and looked at some of these issues," she said.

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"I believe in people taking ownership," said board member Robert Morehouse. "Is now not a good time for them to take ownership? Here is the plan they want."

HealthPartners offers two policy options to staff -- a high-deductible plan requiring out-of-pocket expenses of $3,000 for an individual, $6,000 for a family or a higher premium plan that is similar to the current one, providing co-pays right away.

Health insurance changes helped cushion a $700,000 budget hole for the 2012-13 school year, board members said. With the $1.5 million in health insurance savings, the district was also able to offer $900,000 in salary increases for teachers and staff.

New policy handbooks for teachers, support staff and administration also gained board approval. The handbooks take the place of collective bargaining agreements, which expire June 30.

Board members have been working with staff for nearly a year to hammer out the handbooks.

"I do give the board a ton of credit for working with us and talking us through it and listening to people's concerns and opinions with it," said Kim Kohlhaas, president of the Superior Federation of Teachers. Yet she said the teachers and staff didn't get to look at the final proposed handbooks before Tuesday's vote. Tweaks to the handbooks were made during a special meeting of the board last week.

"Nobody in this room knows what is in their handbook and now we're working under these new conditions that we haven't seen yet," Kohlhaas said.

In other business:

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Lunch will cost Superior students a little more next year. The board voted to raise hot lunch prices slightly for the 2012-13 school year. Lunch will cost $1.70 for elementary school students, $2.10 for middle school students and $2.40 for high school students. Reduced-price lunch for all grades will remain at 25 cents. Extra milk is 50 cents. Breakfast is free at all schools. The cost for adult breakfast and lunch will rise to $1.90 and $3.15.

Related Topics: SCHOOL BOARDSUPERIOR
Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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