WINDHAM — A mediator will be hired for the fourth time in five years to help Windham School Board members and union representatives agree on a contract for teachers.
Board members said a $3.4 million teacher contract was too much to ask taxpayers to support, while the union maintained they sacrificed enough, like agreeing to pay for more of their own healthcare.
“Despite our agreeing in principle to their request for significant healthcare cuts, the School Board prematurely and unexpectedly severed discussions,” a statement from the union reads.
A union spokesperson would not elaborate beyond the statement.
The union’s statement also called attention to a statement posted on the School Board’s Facebook page, which included a breakdown of salary increases and insurance savings.
Over three years, it accounts for $2.4 million in salary increases and $388,638 in insurance savings.
For teacher salaries, it includes average raises of 3.5%, 3.7% and 4% respectively over 3 years.
“Not only is this information purposely misleading, it is divisive and manipulates public perception. This act is extremely concerning on a number of levels,” the union statement reads.
School Board Chairwoman Keleigh McAllister emphasized the importance of teachers, but also said that the board has a responsibility to be mindful of taxpayers.
“Putting a teacher contract on the ballot at over $3.4 million when the town has not approved a total contract more than $1.5 million in over a decade was just not realistic,” McAllister said.
The board’s salary proposal was dependent on reducing the district’s share of health insurance premiums from 90% to 85% over the first 2 years and changing from a $10 to a $20 copay health insurance plan in year 3, which the union agreed to.
“Unfortunately, the board could not meet the union demand of over $3.4 million in net new salary and benefits — including average salary increases of 5.8%, 6% and 5.6% over years 1 to 3, respectively,” the board’s statement said.
The board said it could not agree to some other union requests, like a 7 to 7½- hour work day.
The decision to bring in a mediator followed three unsuccessful meetings.
A date had not been set for mediation as of press time for this article.