Teachers’ contract negotiations move to fact-finding

Discussions trudge along as the start of school is just around the corner. 

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Tisbury School teachers during the June walk-in advocating for "fair pay for MVYPS educators." — Eunki Seonwoo

Contract negotiations between the All-Island School Committee and the Martha’s Vineyard Education Association (MVEA) have moved to fact-finding with the state’s Department of Labor Relations, according to an update at Thursday’s school committee meeting. Fact-finding occurs when it is determined “that an impasse continues to exist and that further mediation is unlikely to resolve the matter,” according to the state website.

“We have, after four attempts at mediation, not been able to come to a resolution that was satisfactory to everyone,” Kate DeVane, a member of the Up-Island Regional School Committee, said. 

The contract dispute has been ongoing for a while now. A rally in April and a school walk-in/walk-out in June occurred to support the MVEA’s position. The MVEA is pushing for higher salaries and better health insurance options, pointing to the cost of living on the Island. During the initial negotiations, the MVEA proposed a three-year contract in which teachers receive a 6 percent increase in their salary during the first year, and a 4 percent increase in years two and three. The committee counter offered a much lower 2 percent salary increase during the first year, and a 3 percent increase in years two and three. Willing to negotiate, the union proposed a 2 percent salary increase during the first year and a 3.25 percent increase during years two and three. The committee did not budge from their “best and final offer.” 

The high living costs and housing availability have been major factors forcing teachers to move off the Island and delaying the arrival of new educators

Once the fact-finding starts, a different mediator from the department will be picked. DeVane said the committee sent a list with résumés of potential picks.

“I’m sure the union has done it, too, since the deadline was a while ago, about a week ago,” DeVane said. “Once we’re assigned a person, we go into the fact-finding stage of the negotiations, and at this point I think If anybody had anything to say, if the union had anything to say to us, they’d have to wait for the new mediator to be assigned. So we’re sort of in a holding pattern.” 

“Is there any idea, in a best-case or worst-case scenario, when there might be [a] resolution?” school committee chair Skipper Manter asked. “It’s just unfortunate not to have a contract in place.” 

“It’s extremely unfortunate,” DeVane replied. “I’m sure it’s frustrating for both sides.” She added that “everybody feels like we worked really hard on it. We were extremely disappointed at the last round of mediation not to get there.” According to DeVane, fact-finding is “new territory” for the committee, so it is uncertain how long it will take. 

Gina Patti, Oak Bluffs teacher and MVEA president, entered the meeting late with some supporters to make a statement without “divulging anything” about the negotiation details.

“I’m here to represent us, and to just clarify a few things from my perspective,” Patti said. “I believe, from the Department of Labor [Relations], that we, both sides, can come back to the table at any time.”

Patti said the MVEA is “willing to come back to the table,” and has a proposal ready. “We thought it best to put it through our previous mediator. We don’t have a new person,” Patti said. “If that team is willing to come back to the table, we’re willing to do so.”

“Kate, I really don’t want you to respond. You can bring this up at your negotiations subcommittee. I don’t want to get into a debate here,” Manter said.

DeVane agreed, saying it is not something that can be addressed during the meeting. 

“We can do that privately,” Patti said. 

“I expect that I’ll be hearing from him, Gina,” DeVane said. “And as soon as I do, we’ll be happy to talk.” 

According to the department’s website, the fact-finding and mediation process remains private. The fact-finder will make a report after hearing from both parties. However, the fact-finder also has the authority to mediate the dispute. If a resolution is not made within 10 days of the department’s receipt of the report, the details become public.

21 COMMENTS

  1. It would be nice to know what the teachers are being paid as this was reported on before with little information. Why not tell the tax payer how much the teachers really get paid and for how many days etc… The public still in the dark. Why are all public workers afraid of letting the tax payer know how much we pay them and what benefits they get for the true compensation.

    • I agree. What is their total compensation package including medical, dental, sick days, personal days, number of days worked each year, and what’s the average pension and what’s the average years we are paying out those pensions? Let’s say a teacher works 30 years and retires at 55 with a 80% of salary pension for another 30 years then isn’t their compensation almost twice what’s reported? We need the cold hard facts.

      • John, the cold hard facts all in the contract, have you read it?
        Teachers contribute 11% of their salary to the retirement fund.
        What percentage of teachers make it for 30 years after retirement.
        How many croak in three years?
        Where does the 11% of their 30 year salary go?

    • Here is a link to all the MVEA Units contracts with salary schedules at the end.
      https://mvyps.org/employment/contracts/

      As a long-time Vineyard teacher I am aware this comment will be followed by a slew of comments on how little we work and how overpaid we are. I am not convinced that the MV Times comments section is where I will convince those folks otherwise. I have taught for 18 years, 16 on Martha’s Vineyard and welcome anyone to chat with me about how hard my colleagues and I work. I am incredibly grateful for the Martha’s Vineyard Community and love my job teaching here. None of that precludes my belief in a fair salary agreement that reflects the current inflationary conditions, the cost of living on the Island and the need to attract new teachers to the district. 40% of our current teachers will retire in the next 10 years.

      This recent research sheds light on the relationship between teacher salary and academic performance. Note that teacher salary impacts the ability to attract and retain quality teachers. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/21582440221082138

  2. Bob, Teacher salaries are public record. You can access the salary schedule on the MVEA website. Starting salary for a new teacher for 2022 is $58,232. It is capped at $64,861 with a C.A.G.S.
    If I may offer some perspective I earned a C.A.G.S. in 2001. Starting salary in a public school in California in 2001 was $65,000 with a C.A.G.S twenty years ago! Having lived in Northern California and the Vineyard I can attest the cost of living is comparable. A 2% pay increase is very reasonable. Why is the school committee digging in their heels? We already have a problem with recruitment and retention. If it were up to me I would double teacher salaries.

  3. Kate of course you would double your own salary everyone would. Why should I have to hunt down teachers pay when I am reading an article about a teachers contract. A teacher works about 36 weeks a year so posting a number like you did is very miss leading to the public. The other benefits are real dollars as well let’s post those. The only under paid teachers on the island are pre school teachers and they maybe more important than you. As that is the true foundation of a person.

    • Bob, teachers pay is a matter of public record.
      Most of our high school kids can pull it up in a minute or two.
      Their teachers are that good.

    • Just for clarification Bob I no longer work in public education. Even if their salaries were doubled they would still earn every penny. I am basing my opinion on my experience as a parent of a 9 year old enrolled in our public school system. Each year I am blown away by my sons education team. Pay them what they deserve!!!

    • Mr. Murphy, your assumption that preschool teachers are more important than Ms. Foley is crass and insulting, mainly given the fact that you do not know what Ms. Foley taught. You are correct, pre-school teachers are indeed very important. And they are underpaid. That does not mean that teachers should not receive a fair and appropriate contract and have a supportive school board. Also, an increasing number of students entering kindergarten each year have not taken part in preschool, which then puts that on the elementary school and kindergarten teachers.
      I am a teacher. I make a good living. During the summer, many of us work second jobs, cover summer school, plan for the upcoming year, and take required professional development. Most of us will also go into school during the summer to work in and on our classrooms and help with other things. We are required to have a Masters degree, thus having an educational level similar to other professionals such as lawyer. I personally have two Masters degrees, putting me on the higher end of the pay scale. We are contracted for a set number of hours a day. I know that for a fact. However, I have no idea what those hours are because, like most, if not all of my peers, I have rarely adhered to the contracted hours. And that does not mean we have left early. Very few teachers leave school at the contracted time and I’ve witnessed many staying til 6 or 7 at night, for which we do not get overtime, unlike other town workers such as police. Many are also in by 7 am each morning or earlier. Many work at home for planning, grading, and more. Especially in the last year with the shortage of teachers, lack of substitute teachers, and staff absences, teachers have had to cover for each other, giving up valuable and necessary planning/prep/grading time. If teachers didn’t plan, prep, grade, and otherwise work at home in the evenings and on weekends, it would literally be impossible to complete all the work required during the contracted hours. Homework would not get checked, tests and papers would not be returned with grades and valuable feedback, report cards would not get done, and teachers would not be adequately prepared to teach their students each day.
      One of the comments here alludes to not having enough teachers down the road. This has already happened. All island schools, like schools nationwide, are working with staffing shortages. This is causing high rates of burnout. Teachers are leaving early or changing careers well before retirement age. Almost 50% of teachers nation-wide leave the job within the first 5 years. A number of colleges have closed their teacher training programs due to lack of enrollment. Think what you will about what we “deserve” but remember that we, the island, are competing for good teachers nationwide and there are not enough to go around. Without adequate pay that will allow new teachers to obtain housing on the island and afford the exorbitant cost of living here, island schools will pay the price. Many people such as yourself seem to think that teaching is a pretty easy job (it’s not), that we have summers “off” (we don’t), and that we are overpaid (we aren’t). And yet none of these people who feel this way have entered the profession. One would think that more people would be flocking to the career if it is so cushy. I have the benefit of having worked in the private sector for 25 years before becoming a teacher, in many different jobs. Teaching, particularly since Covid struck, is by far the hardest. If you care to, I would be more than happy to sit down with you and discuss all of the issues with you directly to clarify any questions you may have.

    • Bob– if you don’t want to “hunt down ” what teachers actually make. you shouldn’t complain about what they actually make . It makes you look ignorant and opinionated.

  4. Those of you whining about teacher salaries, benefits, and weeks worked have no clue as to what teachers have to do on a day-to-day basis in order to try and teach children on the Island. I suspect many of you don’t currently have children in school here so you are even more out of touch with reality. Teachers work their butts off every day under stressful conditions and frequently have to spend their own money in order to supply their classrooms with any extras, which aren’t “extras” at all. Wait just a few years down the line and you’ll doubtless be wondering how it is that the school district got to the point where there aren’t enough teachers for the kids and they’ll be begging the old “freeloaders” to come back out of retirement so that walls don’t have to get knocked down in order to double class sizes or we go to virtual learning because of our self-inflicted lack-of-teacher pandemic.

  5. Having worked in the school system in the past with many of these professionals, my feeling is to pay teachers what they’re worth, and the contract rarely matches it. These are incredibly dedicated and hard working individuals doing a job that would crack most people like an egg in 24 hours.

  6. Public school teachers are the backbone of our entire society. End of story. It’s challenging enough having to teach students with a wide range of behavioral, emotional, physical and psychological conditions, without the sufficient resources required. Today’s teachers now have to deal with entitled, belligerent parents, crackpot school boards, and an ungrateful community of old cranks who probably have’t been inside of a classroom in 5 decades. These whiners wouldn’t last 5 minutes in a room with 25 kids. We cant claim to be “the greatest nation” when we treat our educators with disrespect and disdain. They literally hold the future of our country in their hands. PAY THEM!

    • I’ve put 3children through the school system with one still in it. Yes they’re are some wonderful teachers who work very hard. There are some who are nearing retirement and show movies most days. Regardless of the pay they made an agreement when they were hired to work for that pay which of course was acceptable to them. I’m all for paying good teachers well. Unfortunately that’s not possible under a union contract. Let’s talk abolishing the union, having professional reviews of each teachers performance yearly and paying the good ones well and firing those who are not performing. Any parent who witnessed the complete failure of our school system during covid knows only too well there’s a lot of work to be done to bring up the standards.

      • Yes, my daughter went through the island school system and I can attest to the fact that she received a stellar education. How can I attest to this? Because I volunteered hundreds of hours both at the Edgartown School and the Regional High School so I saw first hand the preparation, skill, devotion and personal sacrifice that teachers make. What did you expect them to do during a national pandemic school shut down??? Make house calls to every student? This was a national catastrophe, caused, in part, by an inept administration and an ignoramus for a president. Teachers went above and beyond during the pandemic. Union busting is NOT acceptable. The School Committee MUST stop stonewalling and negotiate in good faith.

    • Oh, one more thing, what town has classrooms with 25 kids!! I haven’t seen that in the last 28 years I’ve had kids in the classrooms and most of the time there’s a teacher and an assistant teacher. It’s usually around 15 to 17 kids per room . Do you actually have kids in the system?

  7. Having seen firsthand how corrupt the teachers unions are that is the start of the problem for teachers. One of the last coddled group of workers in the country. The union cares more about the teachers than they do the kids. Try firing a bad teacher try getting rid of a teacher who’s been accused of molesting children it’s almost impossible. Teachers on this island do not suffer the same extremes at teachers in inner city do and for the most part it’s a pretty good job. There is a reason why they call it work because no matter what you do it is hard work, teachers job is no harder than any other job but when you like what you’re doing it’s tolerable. Teachers do not have a lock on being a hard job. They do have a lock on getting sympathy from the taxpayers who keep giving them more and more money and look at the results we get. Marthas Vineyard has some of the highest pure pupil cost in the state but our success rate is not.

    • Bob– you use the word “corrupt”, and say that teachers who molest children are impossible to get rid of.
      Classic dog whistles for ignorant right wing ideologues.
      You started this thread off with a comment that lamented that you did not know what teachers get paid and how many days they work, and decried that it was not public information.
      I think you got schooled on that comment,as it is all totally available to anyone with a keyboard and a desire to find out –you seem to have a keyboard but only a pile of sand to stick your head into when it comes to educating yourself about the facts.

      As far as hours go, do you ever think about what a teacher does after the last bell of the day rings and before the first bell rings the next day ?
      Do you think they sit around and eat bon bons while they watch reality shows? Do you think all the tests, essays and homework assignments get read, corrected and graded by the teacher’s dog ? And does the dog come up with what the lesson plan is for the next day ?
      Perhaps that was the case wherever you got “educated” , but not here, not today..
      We have top notch dedicated teachers who deserve better than a “living wage” that they can barely scrape by on. You can blow your dog whistle all you want, but only dogs will hear it.

  8. All school faculty and staff salaries may also be accessed through the town reports you get from the annual town meetings. FYI

  9. Bob Murphy, we trust your English education was not taught here on the Island, or perhaps you were absent, particularly when the grammar sections were reviewed. “Miss leading” unless that’s a pun I’m not catching may, of course, be something your iPhone spelled for you. Perhaps apostrophes and proper use of commas may not have been taught, as well.
    My experience dealing both inside and outside the school district for many years has been that the teachers’ work has gotten harder and harder, as we ask them to be social workers, disciplinarians, mind-readers, diplomats and take on so many other roles, as well as — oh, yes, teach the subjects or grades for which they have been hired. Perhaps your acquaintance is with one or two people not pulling their weight, so to speak. But as an old lady on a fixed income, I am happy to kick in whatever’s necessary to keep our high caliber of teachers on Martha’s Vineyard.

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