BRISTOL - Talks between the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union (ANESU) school boards and the teachers union have stalled, and there are no positive signs that either side will soon return to the negotiating table.
The impasse is the result of an intense contract negotiating process that left both sides dissatisfied with the outcome. At issue were teacher salaries, automatic pay increases (or "step increases") the percentage that teachers contribute to their health insurance plan, and a requirement that teachers work an extra hour per week to attend staff meetings. The school boards represent five town elementary schools and Mt. Abraham Union Middle/High School.
At the start of the negotiating process, the school boards proposed a 3.5 percent decrease in teacher salaries, in line with the cuts imposed on state workers this year. They also proposed to end step increases, which are not currently negotiated as part of the compensation package, and they asked teachers to increase their contribution to their health insurance plans to 20 percent, up from 10 percent, in line with what the State of Vermont has requested of school districts statewide. They also asked for an additional hour of work time per week to attend meetings.
The teachers union originally proposed a 5.5 percent salary increase, continuing step increases, no changes to the 10 percent insurance contribution and no extra work/meeting time.
Compromises were hammered out and the final contract offer from the school board reduced the health insurance contribution from 20 percent to 15 percent, with an average wage increase of 2.5 percent this year, the elimination of automatic step increases in the future, and a half hour of extra work time. The union declined, and all six district boards voted unanimously to impose the contract, which they can legally do for up to one year. Lanny Smith, chairman of Mount Abe's school board and chairman of the negotiating team, feels the school board's offer is fair and that the board has negotiated in good faith.