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Proposed contract draws strong reactions

Budget committee members dissect revised teachers' contract

August 04, 2010
ALTON — Heated discussion surrounding the revised teachers' contract dominated the Prospect Mountain High School budget committee work session Monday evening.

If this fiery meeting was a warm-up to the Aug. 9 public hearing, then there should be nothing short of fireworks at the upcoming Monday night hearing.

The main change to the teachers' contract was a 50 percent cut to the original proposed raise for teachers' salaries, from $38,000 to $19,000 according to Lynda Goossens, chair of the Joint Maintenance Agreement (JMA) Board.

Additionally, those teachers making maximum salary were not given a pay raise under the revised agreement. About 43 percent of the teachers at Prospect Mountain High School currently make maximum salary, according to Paul Bartolomucci, superintendent of SAU 301.

But these cuts did not appease many of the budget committee members.

"I feel like I'm listening to an operatic singer when I read this contract. All I hear is 'me me me me me,'" said Barnstead Budget Committee member Bruce Grey, who took repeated issue with the contract's language.

"This is totally absurd," he said in regard to the contract's provisions for personal and emergency days.

JMA board member Diane Beijer was outspoken in her defense of the new contract, and fired back with what she believes is the reality of forming an agreement.

"Negotiations with the teachers' union are give and take," she said.

Accusations about the school's poor performance sparked the most contentious debate of the evening, as budget committee members accused the teachers and the administration for failing to do their jobs adequately after Prospect Mountain High School was given "school in need of improvement" rating under the No Child Left Behind legislation.

"I don't want to give money to something that's not working," stated Alton Budget Committee Chairman Steve Miller.

"It's a school in transition," defended Beijer, who attributed the disappointing rating to the newness of the school and issues surrounding the inconsistent curricula between the Alton and Barnstead elementary school systems.

Bartolomucci framed the school's situation in a more favorable light than Miller.

"The glass is really pretty full," he said. "We had four focus areas we needed to work on, and we only failed one of four. We received exemplary accreditation and we will be an accredited high school for the next 10 years."

"And we will do better in math," he added.

After Bartolomucci's speech about the school's improvements, some members of the budget committee voiced their support for the revised teacher's contract, at least temporarily.

"I'm now inclined to vote for the contract," said Miller after Bartolomucci's remarks.

Although the language of the contract remained mostly unchanged from the version that was defeated earlier this year, there were still a number of questions about the revised contract.

Paul Landry, chair of the Barnstead Budget Committee, asked why the salary increase was the same percentage between the pay raise "steps" as before.

Chuck Stuart, business administrator for SAU 301, responded that in revising the data, he had halved the increases across the board, meaning that the percentages remained the same even though the final numbers were significantly smaller.

Bill Hayes, a member of the Barnstead Budget Committee, voiced an objection to the sabbatical provision, which was written as a one-to-one ratio: one year of required teaching after one year of sabbatical.

"A one-to-one ratio seems unreasonable," said Hayes, who proposed having a three-to-one ratio of required teaching to sabbatical.

He also questioned the amount of work teachers do in accordance to their pay.

"Teachers work about eight hours a day, 185 days a year, and make $54,000. That's a lot of money," he said.

Beijer defended teacher pay, saying that there are a number of other commitments teachers have to maintain, such as certification training, that were not included in Hayes' figures.

Landry also asked a question about the provision for a salary raise after an incomplete year of teaching.

Bartolomucci explained that teachers who teach more than 93 days have an opportunity to get a pay raise. But he said the pay raise was considered on a case-by-case basis, and was usually reserved for exemplary teachers who taught considerably more than half a school year.

The budget committee asked the superintendent whether the contract was 'evergreen,' meaning the agreement would be automatically renewed unless canceled by either party. It was Bartolomucci's understanding that the entire contract was evergreen.

The issue of where public input should occur on the Aug. 9 public hearing agenda was met with opinionated comments from both sides.

Miller proposed having public input throughout the deliberations to allow for "transparency."

However, Landry, Hayes and others objected to this in light of concerns over the meeting deteriorating into a haphazard debate.

The Prospect Mountain High School budget committee motioned to have the public input prior to deliberations. The motion was carried.

The Prospect Mountain High School budget committee public hearing will be held on Monday, Aug. 9, at 6 p.m. in the Prospect Mountain High School library.

Weston Sager can be reached at 569-3126 or wsager@salmonpress.com

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