By CYRUS LEVESQUE
VERGENNES â€” After more than a year of negotiations, the Addison Northwest Supervisory Union and the teachersâ€™ union in the district have come to an agreement. A four-year contract was ratified at the ANwSU board meeting last week, which will provide about 4.25 percent new money each year for professional staff, retroactive to when the previous contract expired in the summer, and a normalized salary scale.
â€œItâ€™s never an easy process, but it was done and both sides ratified the outcome fairly easily,â€? said school board Chair Samantha Kayhart. â€œWeâ€™re pleased with the outcome.â€?
The contract covers teachers at all four schools in the district: Addison Central School, Ferrisburgh Central School, Vergennes Union Elementary School and Vergennes Union High School. The teacherâ€™s union, the Addison Northwest Teachers Association (ANTA), ratified the contract on Nov. 30, and then the ANwSU board ratified it on Dec. 6.
According to ANwSU Superintendent Tom Oâ€™Brien, the districtâ€™s roughly 150 teachers will see individual salary increases ranging from a little bit more than 3 percent to a little bit more than 5 percent, depending on seniority and education. That increase will be retroactive to the end of the 2005-2006 school year, when the last contract expired. Professional staff will receive that retroactive pay on Dec. 21, the last payday before the holidays.
Health insurance provided to professional staff will remain unchanged, Oâ€™Brien said; staff will continue to pay 10 percent of the cost of their premiums.
â€œIt makes us more comparable to (other teachers) in Addison County,â€? said ANTA President Sally Conway.
The new contract will also make a number of changes to the salary scale. The scale, which controls how much teachers get paid based on years of experience and level of education, has become disorganized over the past six years, Oâ€™Brien said, and this contract will return it to normal. â€œWe have a salary scale now that works like a salary scale is supposed to,â€? he said.
Kayhart explained that minor changes to the salary scale over the years had added up to create a system with a number of confusing problems. For example, she said that until now a new teacher hired with eight years experience would have started at the salary of a teacher in his or her first year in the profession, a practice that made it harder for the district to pay its teachers competitively. â€œIt really allows us to pay teachers more equitably,â€? she said.
The starting salary for an ANwSU teacher with a bachelorâ€™s degree and no previous teaching experience is $32,984.
According to Conway, the new contract gives teachers more flexibility with sick days and personal days. In the past they could take up to 15 sick days and up to three personal days, Conway explained. The number of days off will still total 18, but up to five can be personal days or they can all be sick days if need be.
The length of the school year also changed slightly for the students, she said, but not for teachers. In the past, there were 178 days when students had classes to attend and seven in-service days per school year, for a total of 185 workdays per year for teachers. Now there will be 176 student days and nine in-service days for teachers.
The previous contract lapsed on June 30, 2006. Since the summer, teachers have been working under their old contracts.
Conway said that the negotiation process went well, despite the delay in reaching an agreement. â€œBoth teams, our team and the school board, worked very well together,â€? she said. â€œEveryone worked together and there was give and take on both sides.â€?