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Letter to the editor: ANWSD board, teachers discuss latest negotiations

On Jan. 12, the Addison Northwest School District (ANWSD) and Addison Northwest Teachers’ Association (ANTA) held their sixth contract negotiations meeting. The main topics we discussed were the definition of a teacher, flexible scheduling, salary and benefits.
The board feels strongly that all teachers should get the same raise; our original proposal was a specific dollar amount, but we are open to identifying it as a percentage of one’s current salary. ANTA’s proposal, which equates to 10.95-15.94 percent raises, is based on a complex index that has been used in the past and simply doesn’t treat all teachers fairly. Effectively they are advocating for the base salary to be increased by 10.95 percent ($1,917) and to apply a 4.5 percent raise on top of that.
We spent quite a bit of time addressing some issues surrounding professional development. The board’s view is that teachers are receiving a tangible benefit by having professional development courses paid for and having paid time off to attend them. ANTA is proposing an additional $1,917 in salary for every 15 credits completed.
Finally, we also clarified some of the differences of our positions regarding flexible scheduling. We are committed to meeting the needs of each student’s personalized learning goals and that flexibility is crucial to achieve this goal. ANTA feels that teachers’ contracted 7.25 hours per day must be scheduled in the conventional 7:45 a.m.-3:15 p.m. school day Monday through Friday. If student needs require teacher time outside those hours, ANTA has proposed additional compensation at $45/hour.
Because we have opened our negotiations sessions to the public this year, we feel it is important to keep our communities aware of the issues we’re facing and the dialog that’s occurring. As always, the board is in the position of needing to balance delivering the best education we can to the district’s students and the financial (tax) implications for all residents. Contracted salaries and benefits represent the vast majority of our annual school budgets, so we are working hard to consider the needs of all our stakeholders: students, taxpayers and teachers (many of whom are also taxpayers in our district).
Our next scheduled negotiations meeting is Thursday, Jan. 26, at 6 p.m., at the VUHS library. We invite you to attend and become part of the process.
We welcome your feedback.
Mark Koening, George Gardner and Sue Rakowski
ANWSD Negotiations Committee
Vergennes
 
Editor’s note: In checking out the content of this letter, we found most of the assertions of fact to be true, but we couldn’t find the data on two assertions on ANTA’s proposal so we asked ANTA if the numbers were correct. The two things we weren’t sure about were: 1. In talking about professional development, the letter asserts that ANTA is proposing an additional $1,917 in salary for every 15 credits completed; and 2. In discussing flexible scheduling, the letter asserts that the ANTA feels that teachers should be paid additional money for work outside the 7:45 a.m.-3:15 p.m. day. ANTA Co-chief Negotiators Susan Oliveira and Rose Wenzel provided this response:
Article 14.2 in our current Master Agreement, which can be found online at anwsu.org deals with professional development funding. ANTA made absolutely no proposal to change 14.2 in our proposal to the board. As you know, both our proposal and theirs can also be found on the same site. In fact, the board proposed to cut the funding for professional development for each teacher in half. In their 41-page proposal Article 14.2 is re-numbered as 14.1 and states, “At Board cost, teachers shall be entitled to a maximum of $1,833 per year for the purpose of Professional Development.”
ANTA researched the cost of graduate classes for 2016-2017 at UVM and found they cost $629/credit for a total of $1,887 for one, three-credit class, thus we will be cut from two, three-credit classes to just less than one, three credit class per year. At the table the board has suggested more money might be available for some teachers on a first-come, first-served basis but as yet they have put nothing in relation to this or any other article we have discussed in writing or offered any written counter-proposals.
The second article that you referred to is Article 9.1. Again, ANTA made no proposal to change that article in any way. The current article states, “The Association recognizes that each teacher has a professional responsibility to provide the best possible education to all students and that this responsibility may, at times, extend outside the student day at mutually agreed upon times.” It says nothing about remuneration. The board asked that we agree to change “at times” to “occasionally” which we agreed to do. This article has been signed off on as a tentative agreement — no money was ever discussed in relation to it.
We challenge the board to spend more of their time understanding the current contract, getting to know the dedicated professional teachers who work for this community, and practicing the art of counter-proposing at the negotiating table rather than spending their time writing grandiose or provocative statements to be read at the start of public negotiation meetings or released to the press.

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