Boards ready to negotiate with teachers (12/10/09)

Dec. 10, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Contract negotiations between school boards and teachers within Chittenden South Supervisory Union are expected to begin in January. Boards across CSSU met in executive sessions, which are closed to the public, at recent gatherings to determine the direction they want to take in the upcoming discussions.

“Most boards so far have met to discuss ground rules and expectations in the process,” CSSU superintendent Elaine Pinckney said.

The current contract expires June 30 next year.

Pinckney said the teachers’ union, the Chittenden South Education Association, has yet to inform boards that it is ready and willing to negotiate. Most unions inform boards by sending a letter, which officially starts the process.

Pinckney said the letter is generally a formality, and both sides are ready to begin discussions on Jan. 11. On this date, representatives with the teachers’ union will meet with representatives from CSSU school boards to outline what teachers want in a new contract, she said.

“Right now, we have no idea what they want,” Pinckney said.

Each school district in CSSU has two representatives on the negotiating committee.

Pinckney said the lead negotiator with the Chittenden South Education Association is Lisa Bisbee, a Williston School District special educator. The Observer was unable to reach Bisbee prior to press deadline.

Contract negotiations last took place during the 2006-2007 school year. Negotiations took more than a year, with a new contract eventually ratified in October 2007, more than three months after the previous contract expired.

From Jan. 11 onwards, both sides will meet every two to three weeks, Pinckney said. She has stated in the past that this year’s negotiations could prove difficult in light of the current economic struggles. Health insurance costs and salary increases will likely be topics discussed at length, she said.

Individual pay increases for teachers vary depending on educational background and experience. CSSU’s budget for salary increases has hovered between 3.5 percent and 4 percent since ratification of the current contract. Also, teacher contributions to health insurance plans are 12 percent.