ADDISON COUNTY — Head negotiators for Addison Northeast Supervisory Union teacher contract talks said they have agreed to a four-year contract that features pay increases.
After ANeSU teachers worked for almost two years without a collective bargaining agreement, the ANeSU board and teachers’ union negotiators struck a deal last Monday, June 11.
Superintendent Evelyn Howard on Friday declined to release the document, as she said she was still ironing out some contract details. After the Robinson Elementary School board in Starksboro agreed to terms of the contract on Wednesday evening, lead negotiator and chair of the ANeSU Executive Committee Lanny Smith revealed the meat of the agreement. He said he felt the public should know how its money would be spent.
The other school boards are expected to ratify the contracts this week and the teachers are expected to ratify them soon after that. But time, said Smith, is of the essence.
Since the contracts technically take effect for the 2011-2012 school year — the one that just wrapped up — the school boards need to account for the salary increases by the end of the current fiscal year on June 30.
“It’s critical to do it this year so that it’s not in next year’s budget, which wouldn’t fully account for these increases,” said Smith. “We have a little surplus that we can use this year to pay down those increases.”
In the first two years of the contract — 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 — every teacher will receive a 2.9-percent salary increase with no step increases, Smith said. Step increases are raises that take into account certifications and certain levels of experience.
“Each teacher is going to get an extra 2.9 percent on their salary as part of the increase for this past year,” said Smith about how boards will account for contracts at the end of the school year.
For the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years, teachers will receive a 3-percent salary increase, but that number, Smith said, includes step increases and isn’t applied as an across-the-board raise for every teacher.
“It’s not as though they will get the 3 percent and then the step increases — it’s all inclusive,” said Smith about salary increases over the second two years.
These increases compare with Addison Central Supervisory Union’s (ACSU) 3-percent increases for the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 academic years. In Addison Northwest Supervisory Union, teachers will get a 3-percent bump in base salary for the 2012-2013 school year and a 3.5-percent raise in 2013-2014 with no step increases.
Lead negotiator for the teachers’ union Caitlin Leggett, a Monkton Central School teacher, thinks the contract strikes a good balance between the teachers, the boards and the taxpayers.
“We, the association, are pleased to enter the fall with a fair contract. It was very important that we settled negotiations before entering into a new school year,” she wrote in an e-mail on Friday. “There was give and take on both sides which resulted in a contract that is fair to everyone.”
According to a fact-finder report written by a third-party mediator to help the two negotiation teams reach a compromise, ANeSU teachers pay the highest percentage of their health insurance premiums of any Addison County school district, paying 15 percent. In the new four-year contract, teachers will continue to pay that amount every year for the next four years. By comparison, ACSU teachers pay 12 percent of the cost of health insurance in 2011-2012 and 13 percent in 2012-2013.
Smith said schools around the state are moving toward the 20-percent mark incrementally and some schools are already there.
Another key component of the contract, Smith said, is that teachers are not required to pay the Addison Northeast Education Association teachers’ union for its collective bargaining services, which under law the union must provide to all faculty, whether faculty are in the union or not. This was a big sticking point for Smith, who did not feel teachers should have to pay for a service they had not consented to.
Finally, the new contract does away with a glitch in language that allowed more experienced teachers in reading to take the job of less experienced teachers in math, or visa-versa, Smith said. Under the new contract, teachers would still have seniority privileges, but only in their own department.
These seniority privileges come into play when teacher reductions are made. They allow a teacher with more teaching experience to retain his or her job if they’ve worked longer than another teacher. This holds true even if the less experienced educator has higher performance scores and is achieving better results in the classroom than the more experienced teacher.
Reporter Andrew Stein is at email@example.com.