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May 7, 2013

Teachers get new 4-year contract

METHUEN — The School Committee last night approved a new four-year teachers contract that will increase base salaries by a total of 6.6 percent over its term and puts in place a revamped evaluation system in line with new state regulations.

The contract was finished after months of negotiation that stalled over the winter. Mayor Stephen Zanni said a main “stumbling block” in the negotiations was the Methuen Education Association’s push for raises in all four years. The final contract included no raise for the current school year.

“They wanted something for this year, but I felt because of previous contracts, that was unwarranted,” he said yesterday after the contract was ratified. He added that over four years, the raises average out to 1.62 percent per year.

Ann DiBenedetto, president of the MEA, did not respond to an email seeking comment last evening.

According to the contract schedule, teachers will not receive a raise for the 2012-13 year, the second straight year without an increase. They will receive a 2 percent raise in 2013-14 and 2014-15, and a 2.5 percent raise in 2015.

The 2008 to 2011 contract included 3 percent raises each year, and a one-year agreement covering 2011-12 had no raise.

The new pact also establishes a new evaluation system that includes more classroom observations, both announced and unannounced, and incorporates student performance and improvement in the evaluations.

In 2011, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education issued new regulations designed, among other things, to use student performance on the MCAS as one of the components of evaluation.

Superintendent Judith Scannell last night refused to release a copy of the contract after the School Committee approved it, saying she wanted to review it with DiBenedetto first.

The School Committee unanimously approved the contract in a brief special meeting yesterday at 6:30 p.m.

They also approved the calendar for the 2013-14 school year, which sets the first day of class for most students on Wednesday, Sept. 4, and the first day for kindergarten and prekindergarten students on Friday, Sept. 6. Classes would end June 18, 2014, though the calendar included five built-in snow days.

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