ACSU inks teachers’ contract, settles Sease lawsuit

MIDDLEBURY — Addison Central Supervisory Union officials got two doses of good news last week: Formal ratification of a new one-year contract with local teachers, and settlement of a longstanding lawsuit that had been filed against the district by former ACSU Superintendent Lee Sease.
Sease filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court last spring, claiming he had been unlawfully fired from his job in 2011. He argued the ACSU board missed a key deadline for announcing non-renewal of his contract. Sease also claimed he was not given reasons for his termination and alleged he was not given a chance to be heard on the matter. He requested the court to award him damages, including lost wages and benefits. ACSU officials disputed Sease’s claims.
Current ACSU Superintendent Gail Conley succeeded Sease in July of 2011. Conley confirmed on Thursday that the Sease lawsuit had been “resolved through mediation by the insurance company.”
Mark Perrin, ACSU board chairman, said terms of the mediated settlement will not be made public. But he said the ACSU’s insurance carrier will be absorbing the legal fees and settlement costs associated with the case.
“It is good to have this in the rear-view mirror,” Perrin said of the lawsuit.
The ACSU has now resolved one of two lawsuits with which the district has been contending. The other, brought by former ACSU business manager Sharon Stearns, is slated to head to a Rutland County jury trial on May 6, barring successful mediation.
Meanwhile, Addison Central Supervisory Union teachers during the 2013-2014 academic year will work under terms of a new contract calling for an average 3.4-percent increase in salaries and benefits, and for the teachers to pick up an additional portion of their health care premiums.
The Addison Independent earlier this winter reported that ACSU directors and teachers had agreed in principal on a new one-year contract. The terms could not be disclosed until the pact was ratified by all of the individual ACSU school boards as well as by the teachers represented by the three teachers’ unions: Addison Central Education Association, Middlebury Educators’ Association and the Middlebury Elementary Teachers’ Association (META).
Teachers will pay an additional 0.5-percent toward their health insurance premiums, for a total of 13.5 percent. The district will pay the remaining 86.5 percent, according to Conley.
The salary changes are based on a $400 increase in the base salary, which reflects a first-year teacher salary of $39,275, according to Conley.
“It’s great,” Perrin said of the new contract. “This is an example of what happens when everyone is on the same page.”
“We arrived at this contract after productive talks with our teacher leaders,” Conley said. “It is an agreement that is fair and positive for both sides. When our new superintendent takes over in July, this agreement will be a good foundation for future talks with our teacher leadership.”
Both sides have been working hard to negotiate a new pact before the current one expires on June 30. Officials have wanted to have a settlement in place to make for an easier transition for a new ACSU superintendent. The ACSU board recently renewed its effort to find a successor to Conley, who will be stepping down on June 30.
The one-year deal will apply to teachers in the ACSU’s seven elementary schools and Middlebury Union Middle and High schools. The ACSU schools serve students in the towns of Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge.
The expiring ACSU teachers’ contract is a four-year deal that was ratified in May of 2011. It retroactively covered the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 academic years, along with the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years. It placed, for the first time, all of the more than 200 ACSU teachers under a single contract and a common salary schedule.
Alyce Schermerhorn, a Mary Hogan Elementary School art teacher and the chief negotiator for META, was also pleased the one-year deal could be struck.
“With this one-year agreement, we contribute to the goal of finding a new superintendent,” she said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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