Teachers, schools reach contract agreement


After a yearlong, arduous process, teachers in the Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools (MVPS) and the All-Island School Committee (AISC) reached an agreement on a new union contract that will cost taxpayers about $1.6 million over its three-year term.

The new union contract represents a 4.74 percent increase over three years and includes a measure to help decrease healthcare costs.

Teachers voted to ratify the tentative agreement at a meeting after school ended in June and the AISC at a meeting on July 22.

“The end result benefits both sides,” AISC member Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter of West Tisbury, chairman of the school committee negotiation team, said at last week’s meeting.

“I think the contract provides us with some stability for the next three years,” MVPS superintendent James Weiss said in a phone call last Friday. “And there wasn’t a lot of money to throw around, if you will, so we didn’t try to make fundamental changes in the contract. It’s a realistic salary increase over a three-year period.”

Contract highlights

Teachers agreed to a zero percent increase in fiscal year 2011 (FY11) which began July 1 and ends on June 30, 2011. They will receive a 2 percent increase in FY12 and a 2.75 percent increase in FY13.

The new contract also will contain language changes to clarify and adjust several policy issues.

“I think the two big things the school committee can be happy with are, first of all, the two additional days required for new teachers; that’s something we wanted in a very significant way,” Mr. Weiss said. “The other is the elimination of the indemnity health plan over the course of the contract. That’s huge, because that’s a very expensive plan.”

New teachers will spend two extra workdays undergoing induction and mentoring.

“We wanted to be able to have our new teachers come in for some training before school started, and in the past we invited them and they didn’t have to come,” Mr. Weiss said. “Now, it’s part of their contract.”

Regarding healthcare insurance, teachers agreed to give up the option of a Master Health/Master Medical (indemnity) plan in the second year of their contract.

Teachers pay 25 percent of their health and dental insurance plans. Those employed in the Island’s two regional school districts, the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School District and Up-Island Regional School District, no longer have the indemnity plan option, which is more expensive than healthcare insurance the MVPS offers as a member of the Cape Cod Municipal Health Group (CCMHG).

MVPS business administrator Amy Tierney said the savings in the regional school districts is about a quarter of a million dollars a year.

Because Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Tisbury operate separate elementary schools as separate school districts, teachers in the down-Island schools are municipal employees and their healthcare insurance costs are included in town budgets. If their towns still offer the indemnity plan as an option, as municipal employees they can choose it over the CCMHG plan.

“Even if only a few people take it, the cost of the indemnity plan continues to skyrocket and costs the towns and school districts a significant amount of money,” Mr. Weiss said. “Teachers agreeing not to take it will save all of us money.”

Teacher salaries

The overall total payroll for teacher salaries will increase from $19.5 million in FY10 to an estimated $21.1 million through FY13, according to Ms. Tierney.

Teacher salaries are based on education, longevity, and in some cases, stipends for extracurricular 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 one or more 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.

“I think another thing people need to realize is that in year one, which is the year we’re going to enter in September, teachers are getting a zero percent increase,” Mr. Weiss said. “So if you’re in the step matrix, you get a step increase; otherwise, you get nothing.”

For the 2010-11 school year, a new teacher with a bachelor’s degree starting at step one will earn $45,259, the same as last year. At the top level, a teacher with a doctorate at step 13 will earn $85,861.

Teacher salaries in the five Martha’s Vineyard school districts in 2009 ranged from an average of $68,762 in Edgartown to $73,585 at the regional high school, according to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website. The average teacher salary in Massachusetts in 2009 was $67,577.

Although 276 teachers staff the Island’s public schools, the number of hours they teach equates to 261.3 full-time equivalent positions for a student population of about 2,034, according to the October 2009 school census.

Steps and longevity pay

The new contract’s step increases for Vineyard teachers will average about 4.35 percent, according to Ms. Tierney. Although the yearly wage increases add up to a 4.75 percent increase over the contract’s three years, the step increases bring the overall increase in the payroll up to 8.64 percent, she explained.

In comparison, the teachers’ previous FY08-10 contract included a 10 percent wage increase over three years and a 17.15 percent increase in the payroll overall with step increases.

Not all of the teachers will be getting step increases under the new contract. About 58.3 percent of the Island’s public school teachers already are at the top step of their pay scale, Ms. Tierney said.

Although the number of steps remains at 13, the longevity pay chart changes under the new agreement. After working 10 years, teachers previously received 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.

Under the new longevity pay chart, in FY11 and FY12, after working 10 years, teachers will receive an additional $1,000 for 10 to 15 years, $1,750 for 16 to 20, $2,500 for 21 to 25, $3,250 for 26 to 30, and $4,000 after 30 years. In FY13 there is a $250 increase in longevity pay across the board.

School days, sick pay, and sabbaticals

The new contract also reflects a slight change in the school calendar. In FY11 and FY12, the school year will run 183 days instead of 184, with two teacher preparation days and two half-day professional development days, instead of two full days, under the direction of the teachers.

In FY13, the school year goes back to 184 days, with two teacher preparation days, and one full day and two half-days for professional development under the direction of the MVPS administration.

Another significant change is in sick day buy-backs. Teachers are given 15 sick days a year and allowed to accrue up to 200 unused sick days over the course of their career, Ms. Tierney said. When they retire, not resign or move, the MVPS will “buy back” sick days. Under the teachers’ previous contract, the rate was $15 a day. The rate increases to $30 a day in the new contract.

Teachers also will be given the opportunity to take a one-semester sabbatical. The teachers’ present contract provides for a yearlong sabbatical with half pay. The option negotiated for a one-semester sabbatical would allow teachers to work half a year and receive three-quarters of their pay.

Teaming up

The teachers’ contract is the result of many meetings over the past year between members of two bargaining teams, one for the AISC and one for the teachers’ unions.

The two teachers’ unions differ in membership but negotiate as one bargaining unit. The teachers from the Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Tisbury school districts belong to the Martha’s Vineyard Educators Association (MVEA).

Since the high school teachers and West Tisbury School and Chilmark School teachers work in the Island’s two regional school districts, they belong to the Martha’s Vineyard Regional Teachers and Educators Association (MVRTEA).

MVRTEA president Juanita Espino from MVRHS, and MVEA co-presidents Sandra Joyce from Edgartown School and Barbara Jones from Oak Bluffs School led the teachers’ bargaining team, which included about 12 to 15 representatives from all of the Island schools.

The AISC’s bargaining team included members from each local and regional school committee and selectmen or financial committee (FinCom) representatives from each town.

AISC members Roxanne Ackermann, Susan Parker, Susan Mercier, Robert Tankard, and Priscilla Sylvia served on the team, along with selectmen Ron DiOrio of Oak Bluffs and Jim Newman of Aquinnah. The West Tisbury selectmen appointed Joan Borkow as their representative. FinCom members included Richard Williams (Chilmark), Fred Condon (Edgartown), and Bruce Lewellyn (Tisbury).

Mr. Weiss and Ms. Tierney attended all of the meetings. Assistant superintendent Laurie Halt and Edgartown School principal John Stevens served as consultants to the team.

Now that both sides have ratified the tentative agreement, Mr. Weiss said the master agreement would be finalized.

“And that will take us probably a month, five weeks or something like that, to draft it up, share it with the teachers, and share it with our committee, to make sure everybody believes it is what we did,” he said.

Union contracts for teachers, paraprofessionals, custodians, secretaries, and cafeteria workers expired on June 20, 2010. As in the past, the AISC began negotiations with the teachers first, because theirs is the biggest bargaining unit.

A one-year contract with the cafeteria workers’ bargaining unit was settled in June, however. The contract covers 11 cafeteria workers employed in the Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Tisbury schools.

They agreed to a zero percent wage increase for FY11 and a 3 percent step increase for those at the top step, Ms. Tierney said. The contract stipulates negotiations will be reopened in the fall to set the rate for FY12 and FY13, she added.

Contract negotiations for paraprofessionals, custodians, and secretaries are underway.