ACSU teachers get raises and pay higher health premiums

MIDDLEBURY — Addison Central Supervisory Union teachers have agreed to a four-year contract that provides for some modest pay increases and slightly elevates their health care premium payments.
Details of the new pact were made public Friday morning following ratification of the document by the Weybridge and Cornwall school boards. It places, for the first time ever, all of the more than 200 ACSU teachers under a single contract. Teachers in the seven elementary schools, Middlebury Union Middle School and Middlebury Union High School had previously negotiated contracts separately under three unions.
Previously, the middle school and high school teachers (UD-3) had negotiated their contract separately as the Middlebury Educators’ Association (MEA). Teachers at Mary Hogan Elementary School negotiated as Middlebury Education Teachers’ Association and the six other rural elementary schools negotiated as the Addison Central Educators’ Association.
“Overall, it gets all teachers in the ACSU on one common salary schedule,” said Al Calzini, a UD-3 teacher and chief negotiator for the MEA. “That was very important to the teachers.”
Calzini noted that under the old contract ACSU teachers with the same qualifications can max out the salary scale at around $6,000 less at some of the rural schools than their counterparts in UD-3. The unified contract levels the salary playing field, he said.
The previous teachers’ contracts expired at the end of the 2008-2009 academic year. This new contract retroactively covers the past two school years, and the two upcoming — 2011-2012 and 2012-2013.
ACSU Superintendent Lee Sease said teachers continued to be responsible for 10 percent of their health insurance premium payments during the first two years of the contract. Teachers also received step increases as dictated by the salary scale. Money budgeted for salary and benefits during the past two years proved to be adequate in covering those expenses, Sease said.
The next two years of the contract call for:
•  Three percent total new money for salary and benefits in 2011-2012 school year, and for all teachers to be moved to the UD-3 salary scale — which has historically been higher than the salary scales in the seven ACSU elementary schools in Middlebury, Weybridge, Cornwall, Shoreham, Ripton, Salisbury and Bridport. In addition, teachers will pay 12 percent of their health insurance premiums, up from the current 10 percent.
The 3 percent does not equate to a 3 percent raise for every teacher, but increases the pool of money for raises by that percent.
•  Three percent new money for the 2012-2013 academic year, with teachers paying 13 percent of their health care premiums.
•  Teachers to receive the cost of a single-person dental plan. Sease explained that teachers have previously received a payment toward dental coverage, but this new deal is an improvement to that arrangement. The extra cost of this benefit is more than offset by the savings the ACSU will derive from teachers taking on more of their health care premiums, according to Sease.
•  Elimination of a previous contract provision (that only affected UD-3 teachers) that provided an automatic 4-percent-of the-base-salary increase for teachers at the top of the salary scale during years when no contract was in force.
•  The ability of teachers to break up two in-service days per school year into two-hour segments that can be added to the end of school days to take advantage of training opportunities.
“It is a good contract,” Sease said.
Negotiators spent more than two years cobbling together the new pact. Part of the challenge, Sease said, was merging the language from what had been three separate teacher contracts. That feat was largely completed during the summer of 2010, Sease said, leaving another big obstacle.
“We were unable to deal with the economics at that time,” Sease said.
Both sides agreed to bring in a mediator, who was unfortunately not able to bring the sides together.
But the talks did not end.
“The day after mediation, a teacher approached me and said, ‘I think we could have done this,’” Sease recalled.
Sease agreed. The two sides brought their attorneys to the table and pared down their respective negotiating teams. They struck a deal earlier this year.
“I think everyone was happy about the process,” Sease said. “It established a lot of good will.”
Calzini agreed.
“I think it was a fair settlement,” he said. “We had a very reasonable discussion.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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