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ACSU teachers, school boards remain apart in contract talks

MIDDLEBURY — Addison Central Supervisory Union (ACSU) teachers returned to work last week without a new contract for the second year in a row, though negotiators remain optimistic an accord will be reached with the benefit of renewed talks.
The more than 200 ACSU teachers continue to operate under terms of the previous pact, which expired at the end of the 2008-2009 academic year. That contract assures step salary increases (but no bump in base pay) and the same health care benefit terms for the teachers employed in the ACSU-member elementary schools in Bridport, Cornwall, Salisbury, Ripton, Shoreham, Weybridge and Middlebury, along with Middlebury Union middle school and high school.
For the first time ever, all of the school unions are negotiating as a single collective bargaining unit. Previously, the middle school and high school teachers (in the UD-3 district) had negotiated their contract separately as the Middlebury Educators’ Association (MEA). The teachers at Mary Hogan Elementary in Middlebury negotiated as the Middlebury Education Teachers’ Association (META) and the six other rural elementary schools negotiated as the Addison Central Education Association.
On the other side of the table is a body made up of representatives from each of the effective elementary boards and the UD-3 board, as well as a hired negotiator.
Teachers and school board negotiators returned to the table on Aug. 30 to present their respective cases to an independent mediator.
“There are still some issues to be resolved,” said ACSU Superintendent Lee Sease this week. “Both sides remain positive, and we are working hard.”
Negotiations appear to be going more smoothly than in Winooski, where teachers on Tuesday voted to strike beginning Sept. 15 barring an agreement with the school board on a new contract. Winooski teachers are entering their third year without a new pact. The school board and teachers in that community remain substantially apart on salary and benefits.
Since the ACSU contract talks have not moved to a fact-finder (as is the case in Winooski), the teachers’ and school board’s respective contract positions remain secret.
Al Calzini, a UD-3 teacher and chief negotiator for the MEA, described the unresolved issues as relating primarily to salaries, health insurance and working conditions.
Calzini said he’s hopeful the sides will be able to resolve their differences.
“For more than two years, I would characterize the talks as having been cordial, respectful and productive,” Calzini said, adding the pace of negotiations slowed some this past June.
There are no new scheduled talks at this point. Calzini said teachers are willing to return to the bargaining table. Failing new talks, teachers will be calling for a neutral fact-finder to get involved in the negotiations, according to Calzini.
A fact-finder would take evidence from both sides and issue non-binding contract terms.
“Both sides remain positive and we are working hard,” Sease said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
 

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