Sunday, May 26, 2013
By Susan McMillan firstname.lastname@example.org
READFIELD -- Two years after they began negotiating, Regional School Unit 38 and the district's teachers have a contract.
Negotiations for the next deal, however, are just around the corner because the agreement ratified by the Maranacook Area Staff Association in February and the RSU 38 school board this past week expires in August.
"In general the board sentiment was that we were very happy to have a contract that we could ratify, but that we still see some very serious challenges ahead," said vice chairwoman Lynette Johnson, a board member from Wayne. "So we're not breathing a sigh of relief as we head into the budget negotiations and another round of contract negotiations."
The board approved the two-year contract by a vote of 8-2, with Russ Evans of Mount Vernon and Marie Rodriguez of Readfield dissenting. Board members David Greenham of Readfield, Rebecca Lambert of Mount Vernon and Chairwoman Samantha Horn Olsen, a Readfield representative, were not at the meeting.
Jill Watson, a special education teacher and member of the union's negotiating team, said the teachers voted 47-1 for the contract, which includes raises for everyone, no change to health insurance and clarification of the rules for taking personal leave.
"Neither party got everything they wanted, however, ultimately it's a fair and reasonable contract for the times," Watson said.
The approximately 110 teachers had been working without a contract since summer 2011. The new agreement covers 2011-12 and 2012-13.
The union wanted a three-year contract, but the school board refused. Johnson said they wanted to move forward, and trying to work out details for a third year probably would have taken a long time, given the uncertain climate.
Preliminary figures from the Maine Department of Education show that reduced state subsidy and a proposed new requirement to cover a portion of teacher retirement costs would result in a loss of $600,298 for RSU 38.
Both Watson and Johnson said the negotiations were complicated because they involved merging five pre-consolidation contracts into one.
The association represents teachers at six schools in Manchester, Mount Vernon, Readfield and Wayne.
The previous contracts had different pay scales, but everyone is receiving a raise of at least $1,096 in each of the two years of the contract. The salary schedule for this year ranges from $31,550 for an entry-level teacher with a bachelor's degree up to $61,482 for 31 years or more of experience and a certificate of advanced study, which is a credential beyond a master's degree.
On average, teachers received a 3 percent raise, according to the RSU 38 central office. The total cost to the district was not available.
Stipends for teachers who coach sports, advise student clubs or lead instructional teams have not been resolved and will remain at 2010-11 levels while a joint committee reviews stipend positions for the next round of negotiations. Watson said some positions were not included in the various contracts, and others are obsolete.
The new contract also replaces vague language about permissible reasons for taking personal leave. Instead, there are five specific reasons including personal emergencies, religious holidays and family events such as weddings or graduations.
When negotiations broke down last year and the parties went to mediation, the union raised concerns about proposals to prohibit teachers from leaving campus during duty-free lunch periods and requiring them to pay for their substitutes in some cases.
Johnson and Watson both said the complaints arose from misunderstandings that cleared up once the parties returned to face-to-face negotiations in December. The changes did not become part of the contract, Watson said.
"Our last negotiations were very respectful, very give-and-take, exactly what negotiations should be," Watson said. "We were able to hammer out the rest of the contract fairly easily."
Negotiations for the next contract will begin this spring.
Susan McMillan -- 621-5645