By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — School directors and educators in the Addison Central Supervisory Union’s (ACSU) six rural schools have ratified a new, four-year contract that will maintain current health insurance benefits and ultimately raise teachers’ base salaries to be on par with their colleagues at Middlebury’s Mary Hogan Elementary School.
The new pact comes after more than a year of negotiations between ACSU school directors and negotiators representing the teachers union, called the Addison Central Elementary Association. The contract will apply to the approximately 60 teachers who work at the elementary schools in Bridport, Cornwall, Weybridge, Ripton, Salisbury and Shoreham.
The teachers’ previous contract had expired in June of 2005. They spent the past school year (2005-2006) working under the terms of that expired pact.
ACSU Superintendent Lee Sease acknowledged that initial negotiations between teachers and school directors were difficult. The tension, he said, stemmed from a realization that compensation for Addison Central Elementary Association teachers had not kept pace with other teachers in the district.
“It created a lot of hard feelings around equity, and just feeling appreciated,” Sease said. “But (talks) ended with grace and dignity, with both sides congratulating each other for coming to an agreement.”
The new agreement calls for:
• A retroactive, 4.2-percent salary increase for teachers for the 2005-2006 academic year, which brought the starting salary for newly hired teachers to $31,260 per year.
• A 4.75 percent boost in teacher salaries for the current, 2006-2007 academic year. That brings the starting salary for newly hired teachers to $32,475 annually.
• A transition, in year three (2007-2008), during which teachers in the six rural schools will be placed on a salary scale similar to that in place at Mary Hogan Elementary. The base pay for a starting teacher is expected to escalate to $33,536.
• A step increase in salary for teachers in the final year (2008-2009) of the contract, bringing the base pay for new teachers to $34,286. Most Addison Central Elementary Association teachers will earn more than the base pay figure, due to seniority and education qualifications.
• The same health insurance benefits. Teachers may continue to select single, two-person or family coverage from either a VEHI Dual Option Health Insurance Plan, of which the district will pay 90 percent of the premium; or a Blue-Cross/Blue Shield Managed Health Care Plan, with teachers paying the difference between the cost of that plan and the amount the district pays for the VEHI Dual Option plan.
• A requirement of 187 teaching days, one less than the current calendar. Sease explained that the 187 days now puts the rural school teachers in line with the UD-3 teaching calendar.
Lisa Beck, vice president of the union, said she’s pleased with the manner in which the new contract was negotiated.
“I think we were all happy to come to an agreement,” Beck said. “We have a great deal of respect for the board members for the work they did. They listened very well.”
Still, Beck said she and other elementary school teachers remain concerned that there remains a gap between what they, and high school teachers, are being paid to educate the same children as they move through the system.
“We’re still a little saddened by the inequity,” Beck said.