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The School District 2 board unanimously approved the contract deal struck last week between the teachers union and district administration. 

During the vote, trustees praised the work teachers do daily in the classroom and thanked the union for the quality of the negotiations, which focused largely on instructional issues. 

"I applaud the teachers, hugely," said board Chairman Allen Halter.

Trustee Teresa Stroebe agreed. "Teachers are the heroes."  

District and union leaders negotiated a contract that stipulated no new, across-the-board raises for teachers. 

A certain percentage of teachers still will receive a raise for completing additional training and education or for hitting certain longevity milestones.

Known as steps and lanes raises, the pay increases are reserved for those teachers who advance their education and training, or reach a specific milestone based on their number of years in the district.

Union leaders cut the deal to ensure that all the money from the $1 million general fund mill levy approved by voters earlier this month would go to hiring new teachers.

Following the contract vote, the board took up discussion of how best to find sites for the two new middle schools it hopes to build in the next few years. 

The district recently completed a master facilities plan that called for the construction of new schools, finding that the district was woefully overcrowded. 

Between now and July 15, the board will pull together a team of experts and representatives from various city departments, transportation, the housing authority and others to help identify sites where a new school could be built. 

After that, they'll hold a series of evening meetings to seek feedback from parents and community members on choosing a potential school site. 

"Obviously, the decision on siting will be up to the board," said Superintendent Terry Bouck. 

The district wants to have a list of potential sites to present to the board at a special July 15 meeting for a vote. 

The sites selected by the board will appear on a fall ballot, along with a multimillion-dollar bond to construct the schools, for voter approval. 

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Business Reporter

Business Reporter for the Billings Gazette.