By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — Mary Hogan Elementary School teachers returned to classes this week to find familiar surroundings, new students and a new labor contract.
Middlebury Elementary Teachers Association (META) representatives and ID-4 school district officials confirmed on Monday that both sides have ratified a new, three-year pact that will dictate teachers’ compensation through the 2008-2009 academic years.
Addison Central Supervisory Union (ACSU) Superintendent Lee Sease said he may soon have some more good news to announce on the subject of teachers’ contracts at other schools within his district. It appears as though teachers at the other ACSU elementary schools in Cornwall, Weybridge, Bridport, Ripton, Salisbury and Shoreham have “come to a tentative agreement on a new, multi-year deal,” according to Sease.
That agreement has not yet been condensed into a written document, so details cannot yet be released, according to Sease.
Major components of the Mary Hogan contract, according to ID-4 board Chairwoman Dawn Saunders, include:
• A requirement that teachers continue to pay 10 percent of their premium on Blue Cross-Blue Shield health insurance plans coordinated by the Vermont National Education Association and the Vermont School Boards Association.
• Annual increases of 3 percent to ID-4’s base teaching salary during each of the three years of the contract.
The base salary is a benchmark established for brand new, starting teachers at ID-4. That base salary, during the 2005-2006 academic year was $31,376. A boost of 3 percent, as prescribed by the new contract, now places the base salary at $32,317.
Officials stressed that Mary Hogan Elementary has an experienced workforce, and therefore few on the current teaching roster will make the base salary. So, taking into consideration step increases and veteran teachers’ wages, the salary line within the ID-4 budget will actually increase annually by 4.4 percent, 4.2 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively, during the three-year duration of the new contract.
“(The salary line) will diminish from year to year because more people will top out on the salary schedule,” Saunders said. “And this is assuming we keep the same staff.”
Indeed, with proper notice, the ID-4 board could choose to reduce its teaching staff to reflect enrollment trends. The Mary Hogan school currently employs 44 full- and part-time students. Enrollment this year is anticipated to be around 410 children.
“We’ve been keeping budget increases below 3 percent for each of the past five years,” Saunders noted.
Negotiators on both sides said they are pleased with the contract and the manner through which it was bargained. They used a “collaborative” style of negotiating, as opposed to the more hard-nosed approaches used to hammer out previous pacts. Earlier this year, META and the ID-4 board agreed to bring in mediator Susan Brown to help sort out compensation issues.
“Maintaining a good working relationship with the school board was critical,” said Alyce Schemerhorn, an ID-4 teacher and lead negotiator for META. “(This contract) maintains strong programming, and it recognizes the economic needs of the community.”
“I think both sides worked really hard on this contract,” Saunders said.
ACSU Superintendent Sease echoed those sentiments.
“It was a good process,” he said. “I’m pleased we have an agreement.”
Meanwhile, the UD-3 school board and Middlebury Union High School Teachers Association (MUHSTA) continue their efforts to hash out new contracts for MUHS and Middlebury Union Middle School (MUMS) teachers.
MUHSTA is also negotiating on behalf of Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center teachers, who are also due for a new agreement.
The MUHS, MUMS and career center teachers will work under terms of the expired (as of June 30, 2006) contract until a new one is hammered out.