Teacher Contract Negotiations Have Begun
By: Alex Scofield
Contract negotiations between the school committee and the Sandwich Educators Association have officially commenced, union President Laura R. Carlyle said this week.
Ms. Carlyle said that union representatives held their first meeting with the school committee on Tuesday, December 8.
She declined to comment on what was discussed at the meeting or the negotiations in general.
“We absolutely do not talk about it,” Ms. Carlyle said.
School committee Chairman Robert J. Simmons Jr. was equally taciturn in his comments about the negotiations, saying only that he hoped they would be resolved quickly.
The school committee’s current contract, which was ratified in May of 2008, is set to expire in September of 2010.
The previous negotiation lasted nearly a year and a half, with both sides eventually agreeing to enlist the services of a third party mediator. Teachers worked under the terms of their old contract, which expired in August of 2007, for most of the 2007/08 school year.
The district’s legal counsel Joseph A. Emerson Jr. will represent the district in negotiations.
Teachers earned a 10.25 percent increase in salary over three years through that contract. In the first year, teachers received a 3.5 percent raise, and 3.25 percent raise for each for the following years.
Other incentives, such as step and increment raises given for earning additional educational credits and longevity pay, pushed the average increase in teacher salaries up by around six percent in each year of the the three-year contract.
Mr. Simmons said that Mr. Emerson, who represented the school committee during its negotiations of the last teachers’ union contract, has more than 20 years of experience in collective bargaining.
Mr. Simmons said that committee members S. Aleta Barton and Sharron L. Marshall will comprise the school committee’s bargaining team.
Mr. Simmons said that there are only two members of the bargaining team because members Shaun P. Cahill and Jessica A. Linehan are married to Sandwich schoolteachers,and are therefore not eligible to participate in negotiations, and a majority of the remaining eligible members are not allowed to participate in discussions.
During a school committee meeting on Wednesday evening, Mr. Simmons said that the administration will need to cut at least 20 positions within the district even if teachers were to take a zero percent pay increase for the coming year.
He said that the administration is currently building a budget based on the assumption that teachers would take a zero percent pay increase.
“But that’s only an assumption,” he added.
Last year, six of the town’s municipal unions, as well each of the town’s department heads, agreed to a zero percent pay increase for Fiscal Year 2010.
Ms. Carlyle declined comment on whether the teachers union would at all be influenced by the pay freezes taken by other municipal unions.
With each of the unions that took pay freezes also up for new contracts this year, Selectman F. Randall Hunt said it was possible that the teachers’ union’s contract would dictate the rest of the town’s negotiations.
“My expectation would be that [the other municipal unions] would wait to finish their contracts until the teachers’ contract is completed,” he said.
With so many contracts open for negotiations, the town cannot be exactly sure what its salary commitments will be for Fiscal Year 2011, a year in which the town is expecting further reductions in state aid and local revenue.
Mr. Hunt said that the uncertainty that labor negotiations bring to the budget-building process is not uncommon in Sandwich.
“We’re used to dealing with six municipal unions at a time anyway,” Mr. Hunt said. “[The teachers’ contract] just adds one more to the mix.”
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