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Teachers rally again for contracts

BRISTOL — As members of the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union board entered Mount Abraham Union High School for a special meeting Monday night, they were greeted by halls lined with silent teachers holding signs with messages like, “Work with us” and “Negotiate!” scrawled across them in colored marker.
Once again, members of the Addison Northeast Educators Association teachers union rallied before the board in an attempt to keep teacher contract negotiations on the table.
“We found out Friday night that they would be meeting again and we rallied together,” said Heather Parkhurst, who has been the lead negotiator on behalf of the teachers. “This is that important to us.”
The ANeSU teachers contract expired last summer, and Vermont school boards are currently putting together budgets for next year. Most boards are trying to cut spending by 2 percent as is called for in the Challenges for Change law passed last spring.
Members of the teachers union held a quiet picket last Thursday before a meeting with the supervisory union board that they had hoped would produce a settlement. Though they were unable to reach an agreement, board members agreed to meet with teachers at a later date to further discuss the terms of the contracts.
“We want them to hear us,” Parkhurst said. “We don’t want them to rush to any decisions at this point.”
The teachers also addressed the supervisory union board members during their meeting. Lincoln Community School teacher Mikaela Frank read a statement on behalf of the group that stressed the possibly negative repercussions of a hasty decision.
“Imposition would not only interrupt this school year, but would also destroy the collaborative and energized spirit that is driving this good work,” Frank read. “Let’s work together to resolve this without jumping to drastic measures.”
The teachers remained circled around the conference table in the Mount Abe library until Mount Abe School Board Chairman Lanny Smith called for executive session.
“We will have people at each individual board meeting,” Parkhurst said Monday night. “We want everyone to have an opportunity to hear, including the board members who aren’t negotiating.”
Proposed school spending plans — which will make assumptions about teacher contracts — must be determined before the Dec. 15 according to the Challenges for Change law, but only time will tell if those contracts will be satisfactory to both board members and teachers.
“We want a fair contract for teachers, for our schools and for the community,” Parkhurst said. “We want them to make a true effort to meet our needs.”
Tamara Hilmes is at [email protected].

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