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ANeSU contract talks remain at impasse

BRISTOL — Despite an imposing lineup of Addison Northeast Supervisory Union teachers picketing for new contracts before Monday’s teacher contract negotiations meeting at Mount Abraham Union High School, no issues were resolved.
The teachers are nearing the end of their second year working without a negotiated contract. ANeSU teachers accepted a short-term contract imposed by the ANeSU school board in February 2011 and began negotiating a long-term pact. The Addison Northeast Education Association teachers’ union last October called an impasse in the negotiations and a third-party mediator was called in. 
Teachers and school board members on May 9 received a much-anticipated fact-finding report from the mediator, who drew from both sides’ proposals, conditions at nearby school districts and overall economic conditions in creating the report. It aims to outline a compromise between the union and the board.
While teachers last month demanded that the board use the report to reach a compromise, no such resolution came on Monday.
Lanny Smith, lead negotiator for the ANeSU boards, said that the school boards’ negotiators want to meet with the other board members who have not yet seen the report. A meeting of all the ANeSU boards will convene on May 30 to discuss the new contracts and then resume negotiations with the teachers on June 11. 
“We just felt we wanted some assurance from the rest of the boards that we’re all on the same page,” said Smith. “We really thought it would be good for everyone to have the opportunity to see it all and talk it through before making a big decision like this.”
Caitlin Leggett, the teachers’ lead negotiator and a kindergarten teacher at Monkton Central School, expressed her disappointment.
“Our team of negotiators was prepared. We had read the fact-finding report and were ready to negotiate,” she said. “However, the board was not prepared, and they did not feel they had had enough time with the fact-finding report, I believe, so they came back and said they weren’t ready to negotiate.”
But Smith said the negotiations aren’t that simple. With looming federal budget cuts (see story, Page 1A), the districts want to responsibly budget for next year.
“It puts us in a real quandary,” he said about the possible cuts in federal aid. “If we do what we should do and increase salaries to be competitive with everyone else around, then we have definite issues — if we increase our budgets without raising our (revenues).”
Both Leggett and Smith are hopeful that the board and teachers can come to a resolution on June 11.
“I don’t think we’re that far apart,” said Smith. “Everyone just has the line in the sand that they’re willing to cross or not willing to cross.”
The fact-finding report, which the teachers’ union still wants to use as a guide for negotiations, will be released to the public on May 19. Smith explained that a state law allows the report to be concealed until then unless both parties agree to release it earlier. The parties did not agree to release it.
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected].

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