Barrington teachers ink new contract

Union president: School committee snubs teachers while issuing statement

By Josh Bickford
Posted 11/11/19

The Barrington School Committee and local teachers' union have agreed on a new contract, but the two groups were still divided when it came time to issue a statement about the new contract.

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Barrington teachers ink new contract

Union president: School committee snubs teachers while issuing statement

Posted

The Barrington School Committee and local teachers' union have agreed on a new contract, but the two groups were still divided when it came time to issue a statement about the new contract.

On Friday, Barrington Superintendent of Schools Michael Messore issued a statement on behalf of the school committee, highlighting features of the new contract. 

On Monday, NEAB (National Education Association Barrington) President Mary Roberts sent an email to The Barrington Times, addressing the school committee's statement.

"This was not a joint statement that was issued," wrote Ms. Roberts. "It is the School Committee's interpretation of contract points. Typically, once a contract is settled, both sides issue a joint statement. The SC did not ask us for our input on this statement and the NEAB will be issuing our own press release later this week clarifying several points made by the SC."

Barrington School Committee Chairwoman Dr. Megan Douglas wrote in an email on Monday that she was unaware of any precedent regarding joint statements following contract ratifications. 

"This is a unique situation, in that we had new counsel, a new finance director, and an almost entirely new school committee," she wrote.

"… we had asked our lawyer and administrators to put together a statement for the Barrington community about the new contract given the mixed-messaging and other confusion, particularly the duration, involved in this contract negotiation."

Dr. Douglas said the school committee's statement served as an opportunity to thank all parties involved in the negotiations. She cited this excerpt from the statement: 'We recognize the extreme dedication and care that both parties showed throughout negotiations, and want to commend and thank the teams for their efforts. We value the input and concerns of all stakeholders - educators, students, families, employees and community members - as we work to implement the changes reflected in this agreement in an effective and collaborative manner.'

Contract details, interpretation

According to the school committee's statement, the new contract alters the pay structure for educators in the system. 

"For years, our lower-step teachers have received only step (increases) and no cost of living adjustments to their salaries. As a result, our entry-level teachers were among the lowest paid in the state, while contractual increases for our top-step teachers made them among the highest," stated the school committee's release. "The new agreement awards proportionately greater salary increases to our entry-level teachers in an effort to correct this disparity."

According to the press release, the teachers agreed to a schedule of increased co-pays for prescription medication. 

"When combined with the teachers’ agreement to a schedule of increased copayments for prescription drugs, the agreed-upon salary increases are fiscally prudent and fair, yielding an overall budget increase for each of the three years of the agreement of less than 2 percent," it stated.

In addition, the teachers reportedly agreed to a decrease in longevity payments for teachers hired on or after Jan. 1, 2020.

According to the school committee, the new contract also calls for "educator quality" to be the determining factor when filling vacancies. 

"The agreement … states unambiguously and explicitly that the person selected to fill a vacancy shall be the most qualified based upon education, training, experience, ability, certification, previous employment record, and the specific requirements of the position," stated the school committee's release. "Only when applicants are equally qualified will seniority in the district be considered."

The release stated that while the school committee and union both value work experience, both parties agree that "length of service, in and of itself, should not be the controlling factor when hiring, transferring, or retaining educators."

According to the school committee statement, the new contract specifies increased recognition of "teacher education and improvement." That means the contract will continue to "honor teachers" for professional development and educational achievement by awarding increased tuition aid, new stipends for teachers who achieve a doctoral degree, and for first year teachers, greater salary increases for teachers who have completed additional graduate studies.

Teacher absenteeism was also referenced in the school committee's release. 

"Personal leave provisions have been revised to make clear that this benefit is to be used to conduct personal business that cannot be conducted at any other time. The language regarding sick leave clarifies that such leave is to be used to care for oneself or one’s family when sick or injured," stated the release.

"The teachers have reaffirmed their pledge to provide after-school help for students for as long as is reasonably necessary," stated the release.

Again, Ms. Roberts wanted to highlight the fact that information provided in the statement represents only the perspective of the school committee.

"Our statement will include their enumerated points with clarification provided," she wrote. "I think it's very important that, when you publish their release, you make it clear that the NEAB had no input, were never consulted as is typical after a contract, and will issue our own release later this week."

The teachers' union ratified the new agreement on Wednesday, Nov. 6, and the school committee signed off on it a day later. Barrington teachers had started the current school year without a new contract.

The statement from the school committee praised the dedication made by both parties — the teachers and the committee — during contract negotiations.

"The agreement makes explicit the ways in which Barrington teachers and administrators continue to work collaboratively in the best interests of our students," stated the school committee's press release.

"…We value the input and concerns of all stakeholders — educators, students, families, employees and community members — as we work to implement the changes reflected in this agreement in an effective and collaborative manner."

On Monday, the Barrington Times requested a copy of the new contract, but had not yet received it.

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