Barrington School Committee member Paula Dominguez, shown during a candidate forum last year, voted against approving the new teachers' contract on Tuesday night.
Committee members Patrick Guida, Kate Brody and Bob Shea voted in favor of approving the pact, while Scott Fuller and Paula Dominguez opposed the motion.
The new deal includes a series of changes, both in benefits and salaries: Salaries are frozen for all teachers in steps 1 to 9 (except for mandated step increases) for all three years of the contract, while step 10 teachers receive a 1.95 percent raise in the second and third years of the contract in addition to longevity pay.
There are also alterations to the retirement benefits and health care coverage, but according to Ms. Dominguez, the changes did not go far enough. The first-year school committee member read a statement prior to the vote, articulating what she felt were the new contract’s deficiencies.
“For the past year, Barrington teachers have made efforts to strengthen their instruction based on a new approach to evaluation, worked to identify new curricula that align with new standards, collaborated to come up with new strategies to help struggling learners. The Barrington community, meanwhile, has come together to accept a strategic plan accepted by this committee that identifies priorities like all day kindergarten …” said Ms. Dominguez.
“There is nothing (in the contract) — not a sentence, not a word — that indicates any of these actions are valued. Nothing that recognizes the work of the teachers who go beyond the call of duty.”
Mr. Shea and others who voted to approve the pact feel otherwise. He said the new contract, which is a three-year deal including a first-year salary freeze for all teachers, is good for the district and taxpayers.
“I think we have a great contract,” he said. “I know not everybody on my committee shares my optimism, but …”
Mr. Shea said the contract, which the teachers’ union ratified on Monday night, will lower the district’s budget request by nearly $500,000 this year. In addition to a first-year salary freeze for all teachers, the contract changes teachers’ health care details — the district switched to a plan that requires teachers pay an up-front deductible ($250 for individuals and $500 for families).
Also, the new contract eliminates retiree health coverage for all new hires. Also existing employees will no longer receive family coverage upon retirement, and individuals who are eligible to enroll in a Medicare of federally-subsidized health care plan cannot be enrolled in the district’s plan.
Mr. Shea said the changes will eliminate $11 million in unfunded liabilities.
“I see that as even bigger (than the $500,000 of savings in this year’s budget),” Mr. Shea said. “The fact that the teachers recognized that — I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but they recognized these were important issues… I think that’s a huge one.”
Following are salary changes in the new contract:
• Fiscal year 2014: Salary freeze for all teachers.
• Fiscal year 2015: Salary freeze for all teachers in steps 1 through 9 (there are about 50 in the district). A 1.95 percent raise for teachers in step 10.
• Fiscal year 2016: Salary freeze for all teachers in steps 1 through 9; 1.95 percent raise for teachers in step 10.
• In lieu of the health care changes, all step 10 teachers — there are 224 in the district — received a one-time $1,000 payment.
Barrington School Department Finance Director Ron Tarro and attorney Ben Scungio spearheaded the contract negotiations for the district and communicated all information to the school committee.