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Middlebury-area teachers, board sign new contract

MIDDLEBURY — The Addison Central School District board on Monday ratified a new, one-year contract for all ACSD teachers that reflects a 3-percent increase in new money for educators’ salaries during the 2019-2020 academic year.
But ACSD teachers — and their colleagues statewide — will have to wait awhile to see if there will be any changes in their health insurance coverage. A 10-member committee is still trying to hammer out a health insurance plan that will affect more than 42,000 Vermont public school educators and their families when that plan takes effect for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
This latest negotiation was about a bridge year to a new health insurance structure.
Peter Conlon, chairman and lead negotiator for the ACSD board, noted the 3-percent bump in new money for teacher salaries is consistent with what district educators have received the past two years.
“We have a terrific group of teachers who are working very hard as our district goes through some amazing changes, especially our becoming an International Baccalaureate World School system,” said Conlon. “The board really appreciates everything they are doing, and we are glad to have reached an agreement.”
Health care benefits for next year will mirror what teachers currently receive. Educators can choose from four plans offered through the Vermont Education Health Initiative (VEHI). The district will cover up to 83.5 percent of premium costs, with teachers picking up the balance.
“Insurance premiums are going up 11 percent, but otherwise it’s status quo on what the employer and employee contribute,” said Jeff Lester, lead negotiator with the Addison Central Education Association (ACEA), which represents the teachers.
The only real change in the one-year deal is that it guarantees all educators in all ACSD schools 200 minutes per week of planning time. The number of minutes had varied from school to school, Lester explained.
Conlon believes the school board and ACEA are both well positioned to hammer a contract for 2021 and beyond.
“Our talks with the teachers’ association were quite productive, with a wide range of topics discussed,” he said. “It set the table nicely for when we need to return to the table next year.
“We expect our next round of talks to be far more complex as they will include the new state-level health care settlement, and it will likely be a multi-year contract,” he added.
A 10-member Commission on Public School Employee Health Benefits has been charged with forging the new statewide health care deal by Aug. 1. The panel is made up of five voting representatives of local school boards, four members of the Vermont-NEA (teachers union), and one member from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.
Progress thus far has been slow.
The Vermont School Boards Association recently pulled out of talks after objecting to the union’s request for additional “team members” to sit in on negotiations.
If the commission is unable to produce a health insurance accord by Aug. 1, state statute calls for an arbitrator to be brought in to hammer out terms.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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