Alton teachers, board reach one-year agreement


January 25, 2011
ALTON — At a relatively short mediation session on Jan. 4, the Alton Teachers Association (ATA) and the Alton School Board reached an agreement on a one-year Master Agreement to be effective July 1 through June 30, 2012.

Both the ATA and the School Board paid close attention to the concerns voiced by the community and by the continuing employment situation as they finalized this contract.

Under "Evergreen Law" or HB 1436-2008, should a new contract fail to pass, the prior collectively bargained salary schedules would continue in full force and effect until a new contract is negotiated.

This law would ensure that members of the bargaining unit would continue to be paid their step increases (often related to years of experience in their position) and educational credits the same as the expired contract until a new contract was approved by the voters.

Some members of the community did not want to approve a new contract that would allow Evergreen to take effect.

Since there was no new agreement for 2010-11, members of the ATA have already been held at their 2009-10 steps. This means that they have received no increase in salary for this year. The proposed one-year contract freezes all members of the bargaining unit on the step they will be on July 1, 2011.

In effect, teachers will not receive step increases for two years. A "cost of living adjustment" of 1.4 percent against their 2010-2011 salary is included for all employees covered by the Master Agreement. Cost of Living Adjustments do not continue under the Evergreen Law. The 1.4 percent increase will only be paid for the 2011-12 contract year.

Teachers taking graduate level courses may, with superintendent approval, access up to $1,500 from unencumbered professional development funds in reimbursement for the costs of those courses. Under the present contract, teachers have access to funds to pay for conferences, workshops and for graduate level courses. However, the cost of a single graduate level course at the University of New Hampshire exceeds the funds available to teachers under the present contract. It is to the benefit of the students to have Alton Central School teachers have additional graduate level coursework.

Teachers who have demonstrated dedication and loyalty to Alton Central School will, upon their retirement, receive an additional $1,000 over previous contract language. The formula for determining the total payment is made by calculating the individual's age, how long the teacher has taught in total, and how long the teacher has taught in Alton. No one will be receiving this payment during this contract year.

In the 2007-10 contract, teachers received a stipend at 3.75 percent of the Step 1, Bachelor's Track salary for work on committees. Under the proposed contract, this rate drops to .1 percent, saving $2,358 based upon 2011 staffing. All committee work is done outside of school hours, which may include before or after working school hours, or during vacations including summer time.

Although teams of teachers such as grade-level teams can meet during the day as they frequently have the same time period free, teams working on curricula development or projects are often made up of one individual who teaches in Kindergarten up to grade three; one who teaches either grade four or five; one or two who teach grade six, seven or eight; and a specialist. In order to get all of these people together, this work must be done outside of school hours.

New employees hired after July 1 will work an additional day for professional training and will not be eligible for the Point of Service Health Insurance, which is the more expensive plan.

There were many language changes, which make it easier for the administration of the contract.

School Board Chairman Jeff St. Cyr, in explaining the proposed contract to the Alton Budget Committee, explained that he was pleased to have been able to address the concerns of the voters while still ensuring that a new contract could be brought forward.

"We understand that these are tough economic times, but our teachers have already gone one year without a contract," said St. Cyr. "We have a great teaching staff and we want to keep them here."

Scott Bickford, President of the Alton Teachers Association said, "The ATA appreciates the Alton School Board's time spent working on this contract to bring to the voters of Alton."

The total cost for salary and salary related benefits for this one-year contract will be $38,373.

Since there is a cost savings of $2,358 in committee stipends, the total cost of the contract is $36,015.

Copies of the proposed contract may be found at the Alton Town Hall, the Gilman Library, SAU #72 Office and on the Alton Central School Web site at http://alton.k12.nh.us. For more information, please contact the SAU #72 Office at 875-7890.

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