ANeSU teacher contract includes 3.25 percent raises for two years

BRISTOL — After 16 months of negotiations, the teachers of the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union have a contract.
What began as a fractious and drawn-out negotiation that twice threatened to dead end — first at an officially declared impasse, then at a call for a fact-finding hearing — has resolved with a teacher salary increase of 3.25 percent for this year and the next.
“I am happy that both sides were able to agree on what has been a challenging process for both the teachers and the boards,” said ANeSU Interim Superintendent Armando Vilaseca.
Representatives for the teachers and the school boards reached an agreement in mid-April that each then had to put before the full membership of each group for ratification. The Addison Northeast Education Association (ANEDA), the teachers’ union, ratified the contract on April 15. The ANeSU boards then ratified the teachers’ contract at their Tuesday night all-boards carousel meeting.
The contract covers the current academic year, 2015-2016, as well as 2016-2017; major changes focus on two main issues: salary and benefits.
The new contract awards what Vilaseca called a “3.25 percent increase in new money” for teacher salaries. What that means, explained ANeSU Bargaining Council members Kristin Blanchette and Brad Bull, is that teachers will receive an additional 3.25 percent (based on last year’s salary budget) for 2015-2016 and then another 3.25 percent increase (based on this year’s increased salary budget) for 2016-2017.
The contract keeps benefits the same as the previous contract and raises the number of bereavement days from three to five, Vilaseca said.
Contract negotiations opened in February 2015, against a contentious background that erupted in a petition signed by 500 people calling for the resignation of then-superintendent David Adams and an ANEDA vote of no confidence in Adams’ leadership. As both sides wrestled with what was initially 22 proposed contract changes from ANEDA and 27 proposed contract changes from the ANeSU boards, neither side could reach an agreement before the contract in force expired last June 30. As negotiations continued, both parties agreed to mutually declare an impasse in September.
Communications began to improve in November, when 27 representatives from school boards and the teachers’ union met and participated in a “Relationship by Objectives” training program conducted by the federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Vilaseca began his tenure as interim superintendent the first week of December, bringing his own skills in negotiation and communication.
A five-hour session with a professional mediator in December 2015 led both sides to call for a fact-finding hearing, which had been expected to take place sometime this month.
Fact finding, said Vilaseca, can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 and could have delayed agreeing on and ratifying a contract for months, said Blanchette, the Monkton School Board chair.
The turnaround, said Vilaseca, came when the boards and teachers decided to sit down together without attorneys or other representation on either side.
“The mediator came in December and there was no movement, so one of the things that the board and the teachers decided to do was to meet just themselves without the attorneys or without anybody representing either side and that led to a very fruitful discussion,” said Vilaseca. “That then opened up the door for a second meeting at which this contract was agreed upon.”
Vilaseca continued, “Obviously there were some difficult areas that we didn’t address because I was hoping to just avoid fact finding, which would have cost us an extra $15,000 to $20,000. What I was hoping for was to be able to get the two sides to talk and ‘Let’s just deal with the most important things,’ which quite often are salary and benefits, and that’s what they did.
“This was all about them — the board negotiating team and the teachers’ negotiating team really both made an incredible effort to put what happened behind them and look forward, which I believe is a good sign, leading to the next negotiating session.”
Vilaseca expects that the boards and ANEDA will begin negotiating the next contract (for the 2018-2019 school year and beyond) this fall.
He also said that Tuesday night the boards approved changes in the support staff contract. Vilaseca expects the support staff union to vote on contract ratification early this week, after which contract details will be made public.
ANEDA President Mikaela Frank welcomed the resolution of the long-simmering contract issues.
“My fellow members and I are pleased the boards ratified both the professional and the support staff contracts,” she said in an email. “We appreciate the work both sides put in to reach this common ground. We look forward to continuing this good work with the boards to find ways to make our schools the best they can be for our students. Of course, having a contract in place means all of us can focus solely on what matters most: giving our communities’ children the education they need and deserve.”
Reach reporter Gaen Murphree at [email protected].

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