Addison-Rutland pact confirmed

ORWELL — Teachers and boards in the Addison Rutland Supervisory Union have ratified a three-year contract after months of deliberation and a narrowly averted teacher strike.
The new contract was completed with the help of a federal mediator just hours before the teacher strike was set to begin on March 21. The agreement applies to teachers across the supervisory union for the current school year and runs through summer 2014.
Teachers in ARSU had been working without a contract since July 2011, and after failing to reach an agreement by early March the supervisory union board imposed a contract that eliminated the pay raise teachers had been getting, at which point the area teacher’s union announced a strike.
Superintendent Ron Ryan said the contract, which the ARSU board ratified on March 28, represents compromises for both sides.
“We’re moving forward,” said Ryan. “At this point in time everything seems to be moving ahead.”
Ryan said the contract lays out a 1.76 percent step increase for the current school year, with steps depending on how many years of experience a teacher has. In the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years, teachers will receive a 2.87 percent raise across the board.
The number is a decrease from the past four-year contract, with annual raises between 3.8 and 4 percent.
Glen Cousineau, chair of Orwell Village School, said the step increases have little effect on the school’s budget, as only three teachers at the school receive step increases — all of the others have been teaching for long enough that they are outside of the step system. The school will, however, see the salary line item in its budget increase in the coming two years.
Ryan said the amount that teachers are paying on health insurance will also increase with the new contract. Teachers currently pay 10 percent of their health insurance premiums, while the school boards pay 90 percent. For the next two years, teachers will be expected to put in 12 percent for health insurance.
And, he said, the contract contains language that he expects will help speed negotiations when the current agreement expires, including a specific timeline for discussion beginning in late 2013. Until a contract was agreed upon, said Ryan, there would be no automatic increases in salary.
“This will expedite the process, which is a good thing for both the board and teachers,” said Ryan.
Cousineau said to him and the board, the new contract is a reasonable compromise.
“This is something that we can live with,” he said. “With the economy where it is, it’s fair to the teachers and it’s fair to the taxpayers.”
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at [email protected].

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