EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 30, 2012

New teachers contract negotiated in Windham

By John Toole

---- — WINDHAM — The School Board and teachers have a contract agreement.

The deal provides for merit pay for teachers, who have agreed to health care concessions expected to save the school district $600,000 in the first year of the three-year agreement.

Voters will act on the contract at Town Meeting in March.

If voters approve, the agreement could end a long struggle for a new contract for teachers.

Contract talks stalled and ended in impasse two years ago. The School Board and union were unable to reach agreement in time for Town Meeting in 2012.

Teachers unsucessfully tried to get voters to put aside money in the school budget at Town Meeting in anticipation of a contract agreement.

While their effort was supported at the school deliberative session in February, voters rejected the amended budget in March, along with other school spending proposals.

The School Board and the union, the Windham Education Association, jointly announced the agreement, which they said each side has ratified.

It would take effect July 1. There would be no salary increase in the first year, but raises of 1.5 percent in the second year and 2.25 percent in the third year.

“Windham is very fortunate to have excellent teachers that have continued to work to their fullest abilities even without a contract for the past two years,” said School Board member Michelle Farrell, who represented the board at the bargaining table.

“The teachers and the School Board have been in negotiations since July and have worked together to reach an agreement that rewards teachers for their hard work and is fiscally conservative in today’s economy,” Farrell said.

School Board Chairman Bruce Anderson said the deal, for the first time in town history, will include provisions for a portion of teacher compensation to be merit based.

“This contract also gets significant concessions by the teachers to pay more of their health care costs that will save the district approximately $600,000 in the first year,” Anderson said.

This year’s talks represented a big change from two years ago when the two sides ended in an impasse.

“The negotiating process demonstrated the professionalism of our teachers and their recognition of the changing educational environment and today’s challenging economy,” Farrell said.

More details will be aired at the school deliberative session in a few weeks.

The school deliberative session is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Feb. 8 at Windham High School.

Town Meeting is March 12.