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Shaker board clarifies status of contract negotiations

November 16, 2011
BELMONT — When the Shaker Regional School Board met last Thursday evening, they were greeted by a dozen or more teachers and residents who inquired about the progress of contract negotiations for teachers, as well as the status of $213,830 approved by voters in the school district to award raises to teachers in the meantime.

Chairman Pret Tuthill explained the board was bound by legal obligations to continue talks and await a vote in March on a new teachers' contract.

"Counsel has told us that even with the money from the annual meeting, we would have to have a special district meeting. There was no contract at the annual meeting," he said.

Any new contract and salary adjustments agreed upon between the teachers and the district would have to be presented in a warrant article for voters to approve. In the meantime, the money is in limbo.

Canterbury Elementary School nurse Mary Jo Reed asked the board if permission to use the funding while awaiting a contract agreement was not already granted by voters last March, but Tuthill said it was "implied consent."

With the expiration of the previous contract, the board has been told by more than one attorney that the old contract must be extended until a new contract is ratified by the district, or a special meeting is held to specifically award the raise as granted by voters.

"We got the message (of the voters), but that was implied, and not legal consent on how to spend the funds. We have to ratify terms of a contract first or hold a special meeting," he said.

When questioned why a special meeting could not be set, Tuthill explained it was a matter of timing, as the meeting would have to be held by Dec. 31, and he felt special meetings weren't always necessarily in everyone's best interest.

"They tend to stir up the naysayers," said Tuthill.

In the meantime, board member Tom Goulette reported negotiations on a contract were going well, and they hoped to have one ready to present to voters next March. Ways to address the funds laid out in last year's meeting are also being discussed in the negotiations.

"We're arriving at a solution that will address what the voters said," Tuthill reported.

Board members also discussed the search process for a new superintendent for Shaker Regional School District. With the resignation of Mark Blount in October, Tom Hayley has stepped in on an interim basis until a new superintendent is hired. A committee is being formed by the board to seek potential candidates, and Tuthill said residents of Belmont and Canterbury who wish to be a part of that committee are being urged to come forward.

"Anyone interested in helping with the process should contact the superintendent's office or any school board member," said Tuthill.

Goulette advised any communication to express interest in the committee must include complete contact information, such as email addresses, home addresses and cell or home phone numbers. Without that information, the board will not be able to contact interested parties with more details. Tuthill said several people had already approached the board and letters will be sent in the near future to those who have expressed a desire to serve on the search committee.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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