Teachers, supervisory union agree on contract

By Greg Duggan
Observer staff

The months of Chittenden South Supervisory Union teachers working without a contract have come to end.

The supervisory union School Board and town school boards ratified a new contract last week, which followed ratification from the teachers of the Chittenden South Education Association, or CSEA, last month.

The approvals ended almost a year of negotiations. The last contract expired on July 1 of this year.

“It is wonderful to have this wrapped up, the budgeting uncertainties resolved and to be able to focus more energy on improving education for our children. It also helps that we have a very respectful process with the teachers,” Jed Graef, chairman of the supervisory union board, wrote in an e-mail.

Christopher Hood, president of the education association, had a similar reaction.

“The teachers of our district were relieved that we could return to our classrooms without the anxiety of working without a contract. People were unsettled by the lack of progress in the spring of 2007, but were optimistic that the fact-finders could serve as a basis for settlement, which it did,” Hood wrote in an e-mail.

The contract, retroactive to July 1, is going through a final proofreading and is not yet available for public consumption. Graef and Cindy Koenemann-Warren, the supervisory union’s director of personnel, expect the contract to be ready at the end of the month.

Disagreements over salary and health care costs for teachers caused the most difficulties, Graef and Hood confirmed. In the end, the education association agreed to pay more towards health care premiums, Hood said.

The contract factored in other recent settlements in Chittenden County, said Hood and Graef.

Koenemann-Warren said teacher contributions to health insurance costs will increase from 10 percent to 11 percent in the 2007-2008 school year and from 11 percent to 12 percent the following year. In 2009-2010, teachers will again pay 12 percent, Koenemann-Warren said.

Though Koenemann-Warren said individual pay increases will vary, the supervisory union’s budget for salaries will increase 4.3 percent in the current school year, 4.3 percent in the 2008-2009 school year and 4 percent in the 2009-2010 school year.

According to figures provided by Koenemann-Warren, the base salary for teachers with a bachelor’s degree and no experience this year is $36,825. The “average” salary, for teachers with a master’s degree or bachelor’s degree and 30 additional graduate level credits, as well as 13 years of experience, is $58,184. The top salary, for teachers with a master’s degree, at least 30 additional graduate level credits and 18 years of experience is $73,650.

“The membership of the CSEA understands that high-quality education needs constant investment, and we are proud of the work we do in our (school district) communities,” Hood wrote. “As a result of this investment, schools in our district will continue to attract some of the best qualified teachers from Vermont and beyond.”