Two-Year Teacher Contract Ratified

January 15, 2016

 

 

by Barbara O’Brien

Both the Windham Education Association and the local school board have ratified a new two-year teacher contract.  The action came after the proposed agreement was taken to mediation the week before Christmas; a 13-hour marathon on which both sides, reportedly, cooperated.

“We had to work very hard on both sides,” school board negotiator Daniel Popovici-Muller commented.  “As a result, I feel we have built more trust; which should make negotiations easier the next time around.”  “It’s a good deal for both sides,” he added.

School board negotiator Ken Eyring also commented on the productiveness of the mediation.  “It was a long process,” he said.

The proposed agreement was then taken to union members, where it was ratified by teachers on a vote of 178 to 18.  A breakdown of the votes cast shows the balloting at Windham High School of 62 in favor and 0 opposed, Golden Brook School 42 in favor and 0 opposed, Windham Center School 42 in favor and seven opposed, and Windham Middle School 32 in favor and 11 opposed.

On Jan. 5, the first school board meeting of the new year, the vote to ratify the proposed teachers’ agreement was unanimous (5 to 0).  Voting in favor were Ken Eyring, Tom Murray, Dennis Senibaldi, Rob Breton and Daniel Popovici-Muller.

As for the impact of the contract on salaries, moving forward, beginning with the 2016-2017 school year, teachers would see a one-percent increase for each of the two years for steps 1 through 15.  The total increase of the raises in the first year of the new agreement would amount to about $475,000.  In the existing collective bargaining agreement, steps 14 and 15 were achieved by half-steps.  Moving forward these will both be full steps.

A new lower cost HMO health care insurance plan would be offered to teachers.  Under the new agreement, the school district would continue to pay 94 percent of the annual premium, with union employees paying 6 percent.  Although the percentage of the employee contribution to premiums would not increase from the previous contract, according to Chairman Eyring, using the lower cost plan is the equivalent of increasing the employee contribution to about 14 percent, when compared to the existing contract, based on employees choosing an equivalent plan to what they currently have.

One change in the proposed agreement is a decrease in the number of teachers who could begin receiving retirement benefits in any given year.  Previously, the number of employees who could retire with benefits in any given year was unlimited.  Under the new proposal, that number is reduced to seven.  This clause would take effect in the second year of the agreement, as some employees have already given notice of intent to retire by the end of the first year of the new agreement.  Should more than seven teachers submit their intent to retire in one year, then priority would be given to those with the most service to the Windham School District.

The final say on the proposed two-year teacher contract will be up to voters, however.  A separate warrant article pertaining to the collective bargaining agreement will appear on the ballot this coming March.  Passage of the proposed agreement requires a majority vote.