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LAKEWOOD, Ohio -- The Lakewood Board of Education and Lakewood Teachers Association have approved a new 4-year contract that promises raises for teachers and district savings on health insurance without premium contribution cuts.

The new contract has a 2.5 percent base pay increase for each of the four years of the deal. Teacher pay had been frozen for three of the last four years. The deal also includes a provision giving additional pay to teachers with 30 or more years in the district. The previous benchmark stopped at 25 years.

The district's savings come from health insurance, where health care premium contributions remain the same, but employee spouses are requited to use their employer's health coverage if available. Even then, the district put a cap on how much of the spouse's premium it will pay. Before now, this rule only applied to new employees.

"This will result in a significant decrease in our projected insurance costs," Superintendent Jeff Patterson said. "Treasurer Kent Zeman predicts it will result in insurance increases of 5 percent versus a previously projected 10 percent increase."

Also new in this contract is wording to include domestic partner coverage in the district's benefit offerings.

Early release days are now a thing of the past amid complaints from parents over child care arrangements. Patterson plans on assembling a committee to adjust the school year calendar, finding a way to incorporate longer, but fewer school days.

Teacher evaluation procedures in line with new state mandates, known as the Common Core, are now official in this contract.

The Lakewood City Schools will start negotiations on contracts with the two unions that represent support staff very soon.

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