Portsmouth teachers approve 3-year contract

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PORTSMOUTH — The local teachers’ union has ratified a three-year contract with the school district that calls for modest salary increases, increased sharing of health care costs and larger class sizes.

header_theme_83The School Committee is expected to formally approve the contract at its 7 p.m. meeting tonight, Nov. 26, at Town Hall.

Under the contract approved by the Portsmouth chapter of the National Education Association (NEA), staff members with one to 10 years of employment with the district will receive an annual salary increase of 1.5 percent in the first two years of the pact, according to School Committee Chairman David Croston. Staff members with more experience will receive a 1.7-percent increase in the first two years, and everyone will get a 1.25 percent salary hike in the third year, he said.

The contract also addressed what teachers contribute to their health care plans. Under the new contract, teachers will pay a cost-share of 18 percent for coverage, then 19 and 20 percent in years two and three.

“The administrators have been paying 20 percent for a number of years now, and the district wanted to get everyone in the district at 20 percent cost-share and that’s achieved over the three-year cycle,” said Mr. Croston.

Also under the health care element of the contract, the district will no longer be refunding a second $250 deductible. “In essence we were subsidizing it. That is no longer the case,” said Mr. Croston.

The contract also calls for changes to class sizes, which Mr. Croston said were necessitated by this year’s “unprecedented enrollment” in the lower grades.

“We received approval from NEA to add one additional student to K through 2, and then the ability to add a second student for a $15-per-day bonus,” Mr. Croston said, adding that the change will save the district more than $200,000 annually.

The contract also gives teachers greater control of individual common planning time and group common planning time. Common planning time refers to any period of time scheduled during the school day for multiple teachers, or teams of teachers, to work together.

“We are pleased to provide that to our teachers and frankly we are quite excited about it,” said Mr. Croston.

The contract will also give teachers a greater say in teacher evaluations.

‘We established a district evaluation committee that will have up to 12 members — six appointed by the union and six appointed by administration,” said Mr. Croston. “The committee will come up with an annual memorandum of understanding on how we evaluate teachers.”

In previous years, the language regarding evaluations did not specify what was expected of teachers and what options they’d have as far as ability to appeal, he said.

The contract approved by NEA also contains language regarding the important of longevity, which was also included in a memorandum of understanding between the district and union that was approved last spring, he said.

“I think we’re all pleased,” Mr. Croston said of the contract. “This is a sign of how much we respect our teachers and how we honor them and our ability to move forward with them and to achieve the changes we need to make in the system.”

Amanda Boswell, president of the Portsmouth NEA, was not immediately available for comment.

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