Letter to the editor: ANWSD board to hold contract negotiations in public

The board of the newly unified Addison Northwest School District (ANWSD) has started the process of negotiating a contract with the Addison Northwest Teachers’ Association (ANTA) for the 2017-18 contract year. Although negotiations have historically been held behind closed doors, the ANWSD Board believes that the public interest is best served through transparency. Therefore, the board has decided to hold these negotiation meetings in an open public forum.
The next meetings between the board and the ANTA representatives are Tuesday, Oct. 25, and Monday, Nov. 7; both meetings to start at 6 p.m. in the Vergennes Union High School library. These meetings will provide an opportunity for public comment. Consistent with all school board meetings, the board negotiations committee may occasionally go into executive session to discuss sensitive matters.
The board appreciates the hard work that our teachers do, and understands that today’s schools and teachers have to address more than just education; they also handle issues concerning social services, health services, nutrition, and family support. The board hopes to provide flexibility for teachers to meet student needs, to provide appropriate opportunities for all students, and to address student personalized learning goals.
The board recognizes the difficulties faced by many of our families and community members: 50 percent of our students receive free or reduced lunch, healthcare costs have increased for all Vermonters, salaries and home values across the region are stagnant, and only 25 percent of Vermont households include school-age children.
Total compensation for the district’s teachers and staff accounts for more than 80 percent of the ANWSD budget — a distribution that clearly signifies the Addison Northwest community’s belief that people are the most valuable resource in our schools. This percentage also means that future school budgets must be built around contract provisions. Contract negotiations are an important task before the board, with the welfare of the community in its trust: a community that includes students, teachers, parents, taxpayers, and the community at large.
The board intends to negotiate a contract that will best balance the needs of these many stakeholders, because we represent them all. Contract negotiations therefore present an opportunity for earnest dialogue to arrive at an agreement that will support our teachers, sustain our schools, preserve our community, and allow our children to thrive.
If you are unable to attend these open meetings or would like additional information, a timeline of events, warnings of upcoming meetings, and meeting minutes can be found online at anwsu.org. We encourage the residents of Addison, Ferrisburgh, Panton, Vergennes and Waltham to take advantage of this unique opportunity to engage with the future of our children’s education.
Mark Koenig, Sue Rakowski and George Gardner
ANWSD Negotiations Subcommittee

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