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UD-3 teacher contract dispute settled

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June 14, 2007

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — School board members and educators in the UD-3 school district have come to terms on a new, three-year contract that provides enough new money for teacher salary increases of 4 percent during each year of the pact.

The new contract — ratified by the UD-3 board on June 5 and by members of the Middlebury Union High School Teachers’ Association (MUHSTA) on Monday — will not result in any changes in the length of the academic year. It will also preserve the teachers’ current health care benefits, through which they are responsible for a 10-percent co-pay contribution to their Blue Cross-Blue Shield plan.

Union District No. 3 includes Middlebury Union Middlebury School and Middlebury Union High School, which employ a combined total of around 100 teachers. The contract will cover union and well as nonunion members. Those who have chosen not to be a part of MUHSTA will pay a fee for the negotiations/collective bargaining process.

“I think it affords decent compensation for the teachers, decent working conditions and I think it’s affordable for the taxpayers,” said MUHSTA President Al Calzini, an alternative education teacher at MUHS. “Everyone makes out under this contract.”

It’s a pact that took the school board and teachers approximately 18 months to sort out. The impasse extended through the recently concluded 2006-2007 academic year. The two sides recently brought in an independent fact-finder, Ira Lobel, in an effort to resolve their differences.

It worked. The sides settled only a few weeks after Lobel issued his fact-finding report.

“The fact-finding report broke the logjam,” Calzini said. “It was a neutral (party) coming in, looking at the comparables.”

Calzini noted the new contract will retroactively cover the 2006-2007 year, along with the upcoming 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 years.

It will provide what Calzini described as “4 percent in new money” for raises during each year of the contract.

“That (4 percent) will go toward increasing the step increases and base (salary) a little each year,” Calzini said. “It doesn’t mean every teacher gets 4 percent.”

The new contract establishes new starting base salaries (for teachers fresh out of college) of $34,034 during 2006-2007; $34,616 during 2007-2008; and $35,234 during 2008-2009.

Teachers are also awarded “step increases” based on seniority, and earn more based on advanced degrees.

MUHS teacher Peter Ryersbach, MUHSTA’s chief negotiator, noted the new contract sets a higher threshold for teachers to reach the top end of the salary scale. District teachers have historically had to climb 19 “steps” to fully ascend the salary scale; by 2008-2009, that climb will require 22 steps.

Ryersbach, like Calzini, is content with the result of the negotiations.

“It was a long negotiation, but it was done with mutual respect and admiration,” Ryersbach said. “Everyone was looking out for what was best for the taxpayers, the employees and the students.”

UD-3 board Chairman Tom Beyer echoed that sentiment.

“We all have cause to celebrate the new master agreement between MUHSTA and UD 3,” Beyer said. “At the end of an almost 18-month-long process, marked by uncommon civility and respect on both sides, the compromises reached make us all winners.

“First and foremost, our children will continue to be taught by experienced and caring teachers,” Beyer added. “Our teachers will continue to be rewarded with competitive salaries and generous health care benefits. Our taxpayers will continue to see modest growth in our community’s expenses for education.”

This week’s resolution of the UD-3 contract leaves the Patricia Hannaford Career Center as the only Addison County school without a new teachers’ contract.

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