The Washington West Supervisory Union has ratified contracts with two teachers associations, leading to teachers' salaries being frozen for this year and teachers receiving a 1.5 percent increase next year. There will be no step increases in either year.

A separate contract for support staff of Moretown, Waterbury/Duxbury and Harwood covers last year and this year, plus 2011. It calls for a 1.9 percent increase both years and the contracts for all three schools were unified.

Negotiations were completed between WWSU representatives and reps from the teachers/support staff organizations. Those proposed contracts now need to be approved by individual local school boards and districts. The support staff agreement was approved contingent on association ratification at board meetings in June.

WWSU represents five elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school. Contract negotiations reached an impasse last summer and went to fact finding. The fact-finding document, released September 10, spelled out the positional differences between the parties. Those differences came down to wages and health care and were ironed out during September 20 meetings.

Going into the last round of meetings, the WWSU reps proposed a 1 percent reduction of each teachers' 2009-10 salary and proposed no further increase in base salaries, no step or column movement and no increases to teachers who are off the step/column schedule. (The step/column schedule increases wages for teachers based on seniority and educational level.) The board further proposed that that 2009-10 salary schedule - as reduced by 1 percent - become the 2010-11 pay schedule.

The teachers associations proposed a two-year contract with a 3.5 percent increase in 2010-11 and 4.5 percent in 2011-2012. And the associations proposed that each teacher would advance one step in salary schedule annually. The factfinder who worked with the parties, Ira Lobel, proposed a one-year wage freeze, except for column (educational level) increases, and he rejected the union's call for a two-year contract.

In terms of health care costs and plans, currently district employees pay 12 percent of the premium costs for an individual, couple or family membership. Employees who participate in a parity program (have medical coverage elsewhere or through a spouse/partner) are compensated at an amount similar to the regular employees' plan.

WWSU negotiators proposed increasing the employee contribution to 16 percent (Fayston teachers already pay 15 percent) and adding a third type of coverage with a high deductible of which the district would pay $1,000 for individuals and $2,000 for couples/families with those employees contributing 16 percent towards the cost of that program. The associations wanted to keep the current plans as they are.

Under the proposed contract, benefits will remain the same as existed in the previous agreements.  
In addition, a joint study committee will be established this year to analyze, review and evaluate teacher work day and work year issues, including the possibility of a flexible work day and year. Teachers' negotiations will begin in about a year from now for the FY 2013 contract.

The support staff negotiations will begin very soon for a new contract for next year. The support staff contract that was just completed for Moretown, Waterbury-Duxbury, and Harwood is a two-year agreement covering last year and this current FY 2011 year.