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December 05. 2013 8:53PM

Winnisquam teachers OK three-year contract

TILTON — The Winnisquam Regional School Board and the Winnisquam Regional Teachers Association have announced a three-year agreement for district teachers who have been working without a contract since the 2011-2012 school year.

If voters approve the agreement during school district voting in March, teachers' starting salaries would increase from the current level of $31,152 to $36,191 over the three years of the contract, said Brenda Lawrence, the teachers' association president.

"The main focus was the education of our students by promoting professional growth among our existing staff," she said.

But the contract also drastically cuts the number of steps in the teacher contract salary system, a concession made to residents who complained that the teachers were getting overcompensated with step raises and cost-of-living raises.

"The teachers did give a lot to get this contract done," said Michael Gagne, school board chairman.

The new contract would increase the number of days for teachers from the current requirement of 188 days to 189 days in year one of the contract and 190 days in year two of the contract to aid in professional development.

There is also an increase in funds for development. Currently, the district offers $90,000 a year for professional development, which will be increased to $110,000 in year one of the contract.

Another top priority in negotiating the agreement, Gagne said, was attracting and retaining quality teaching staff in the district. With a starting salary of just over $31,000, the district now ranks 8.81 percent below starting teacher salaries in the Lakes Region, with only Franklin lower at $30,152.

The current salary step schedule includes 41 steps. Under the agreement, the number of steps will be reduced to 11 steps in year two, and to 10 steps in year three of the contract. Those staff members with one to 10 years of experience will receive a step and a cost of living increase.

After 10 years of experience, senior staff members will receive a cost of living increase only. The major change in the compensation package increases the starting salary and promotes teacher retention, school officials said.

The agreement would also add a benefit for retiring teachers, who would be eligible to receive a $6,000 health care allowance for five years or until the retiring teacher becomes eligible for Medicare, whichever comes first. This benefit encourages existing staff members to remain in the district long term and makes retirement a reality for some current staff members with a potential savings to the district in the long term, officials said.

The total cost of the agreement, based on the district's teaching staff, is $559,674 for 2015, $347,569 for 2016, and $270,592 for 2017.

dseufert@newstote.com


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