Teachers, schools ink wage pact
Teachers in the Martha's Vineyard public schools and the All-Island School Committee (AISC) recently reached an agreement on a three-year contract extension that will cost taxpayers about $3 million more over the life of the pact.
The new contract represents a 17.15 percent increase over three years, with the overall total payroll for teacher salaries estimated to increase from $17 million now to $20 million by the year 2010, according to school officials.
Members of two bargaining teams from the All-Island School Committee and the Island's two teachers' unions have been meeting for over six months to hammer out the agreement. Teachers voted to ratify the contract at a meeting on March 15 and the AISC on March 28.
"I'm very pleased we were able to come to an understanding with the teachers," said James Weiss, superintendent of Martha's Vineyard public schools. "However, it took far longer than it should have. We need to find a way to move this process forward more quickly." He added that this was in no way a criticism of either bargaining team, but aimed at the process in general.
Under the terms of the new contract, during the first year, fiscal year (FY) 2008, teachers and other professional staff will receive a 3 percent salary increase. In FY 2009, there will be another 3 percent salary increase with the addition of a 13th step increase to the salary schedule.
In the final year of the agreement, FY 2010, teachers on step increases will receive a 4 percent increase and those at step 13 will receive a 3.5 percent increase.
Teacher salaries are based on education, longevity, and in some cases, stipends for extra-curricular activities such as clubs and athletics. The salary scale is broken down into separate pay categories, which differentiate between a teacher's education and the number of college credits earned, or additional degree work, in the case of teachers who hold a master's degree or two master's degrees or a doctorate.
Salaries rise a series of 13 steps for each year a teacher works. In some cases, a teacher with an advanced degree may be hired at a step equivalent to his or her previous salary in another school system, based on experience and education.
For the 2007-2008 school year, the salary increase translates to $42,251 for a new teacher with a bachelor's degree starting at step one, compared to $41,020 this school year. At the top level, a teacher with a doctorate at step 13 will earn $77,818, compared to $75,551 this year.
According to the state Department of Education's most recent (DOE) statistics, the average teacher salary in Massachusetts in FY 2006 was $56,250. Averages may vary considerably from year to year, the DOE explains, depending on the length of teacher service, terms of contracts, and levels of staffing. In comparison to the state average, teacher salaries in the five Martha's Vineyard school districts in FY 2006 ranged from $61,061 in Oak Bluffs to $65,740 at the regional high school.
Although 285 teachers staff the Martha's Vineyard public schools, the number of hours they teach equates to 267 full-time equivalent positions for a student population of about 2,169, according to the October 2006 school census.
The new contract's step increases for Vineyard teachers will average about 4.35 percent, according to Amy Tierney, assistant to the superintendent for business affairs. Although the yearly wage increases at 3, 3, and 4 percent add up to a 10 percent increase over the contract's three years, the step increases bring the overall increase in the payroll up to 17.15 percent, she explained.
However, not all of the teachers will be getting step increases, as about 57 percent of the Island's public school teachers already are at the top step of their pay scale, Ms. Tierney pointed out.
The longevity payment scale remains the same in the new contract. After working 10 years, teachers receive an additional $750 for 10 to 13 years, $1,000 for 14 to 17, $1,750 for 18 to 20, $2,500 for 21 to 25, $2,750 for 26 to 30, and $3,250 after 30 years.
In formulating the regional and town school budgets this year, Ms. Tierney said school administrators and school committee members plugged in a 3 percent increase on the salary increments line in their budgets in anticipation of contract negotiations for FY 2008. "The teachers have been very reasonable," she said. "They didn't want to ask for more than what we have."
Teachers pay 25 percent of their health and dental insurance plans. The new contract offers an incentive for considering various health-care plans, with an eye to reducing costs for the school districts and the teachers, Mr. Weiss said.
Professional staff members in the regional high school or Up-Island regional school districts who move from the Master Health/Master Medical (Indemnity) plan to one of the other plans offered will receive a one-time stipend. The stipends range from $500 for a single plan, $750 for a parent/child plan, and $1,000 for a family plan paid when the change is made in years one or two of the contract. The stipends decrease to $250, $500, and $750 respectively if paid in year three.
The new contract also contains language changes to clarify and adjust several policy issues. For example, a sick leave bank will be available to eligible teachers who have used up their sick leave and have a serious illness or whose child under 21 has a serious illness. The new contract also would allow teachers who transfer among Island schools to carry 25 percent of their unused sick time with them.
The contract year consists of 180 pupil days, with an additional two preparation days and two professional development days, to include one full day and two extended half-days. Teachers' represent- atives will determine the scheduling of the full day, not to take place before Labor Day.
As in the previous contract, teachers will be allowed up to five days of paid leave during the school year for personal, legal, business, household or family matters during school hours, with the addition of religious matters to the list. Personal days may not be used to extend legal holidays or vacation; however, with the approval of the principal, a teacher may use personal days for the reasons mentioned above, without pay.
The contract also proposes forming a study committee made up of administrators and teachers to discuss the length of the school day and/or year. The committee will provide an update of its progress by Dec. 1, and report any agreements or findings by June 1, 2008.
The Island's two teachers' unions differ in membership because Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Tisbury operate separate elementary schools. The teachers from those districts belong to the Martha's Vineyard Educators Association. Since the high school teachers and Up-Island elementary school teachers from West Tisbury School and Chilmark School work in the Island's two regional school districts, they belong to the Martha's Vineyard Regional Teachers and Educators Association.
The teachers' team during contract negotiations included representatives from both associations and was co-chaired by Doug DeBettencourt, Sandra Joyce, and Chris Abbot. The AISC bargaining team, chaired by Tisbury school committee member Robert Tankard, included members from each local and regional school committee and selectmen representatives from each town.
The new contract for Martha's Vineyard public school teachers does not affect salaries at the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School, which is overseen by a board of trustees. Director Bob Moore said over the charter school's past 10 years, teachers usually received a 5 percent increase when contracts were negotiated annually, and twice in the school's history, a 10 percent raise. Charter school teachers also pay 25 percent of their health and dental insurance plans, Mr. Moore said.