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December 26. 2013 12:16AM

Windham voters to have say on proposed teacher contract

WINDHAM — A new teachers contract — the first in more than two years — will head before Windham voters this March.

During the Dec. 19 School Board meeting, all of the participating board members favored the contract's ratification. Chairman Michael Joanis abstained from the vote.

The tentative two-year agreement between the board and the Windham Education Association was reached on Dec. 9 according to Joanis.

The new contract has been in the works for several months.

In October, union president John Hayward announced that the union had reached an impasse in the negotiations process and a court-appointed mediator began assisting with the process earlier this month.

Board member Jerome Rekart said the proposed agreement with the town's teachers spans two year and outlines changes in their health care plan, including progressive cost sharing with district teachers.

Changes also include a prescription plan that's "more in line with the private sector," according to Rekart, as well as "some recovery of the professional step system.'Windham's teachers have been working without a contract since July 2011. Under the new contract, two professional "steps" would be added to the plan.

"That will bring us from 13 (steps) to 15," Rekart said.

There will be no cost of living adjustments included in the new contract.

Overall, the new contract will cost the district $488,269 the first year and $505,237 the second year.

Board member Dennis Senibaldi commended both his fellow board members and the district's teachers for their work on the new contract.

"We've done plenty of brainstorming," he said. "I'm sure the teachers are happy and the town will be happy. Hopefully we can move forward from here and this will pass in March."

Rekart agreed."This was a special opportunity for the teachers and the board to come together with one common goal," he said, "That goal is to appreciate the excellent educators in this town and to come together, in a fiscally responsible manner."Voters at the March 2013 polls rejected a warrant article for a new, three-year contract that would have increased the budget by $107,259 this year and $563,473 in the coming year.

The tax impact of the article would have amounted to 5 cents per thousand dollars this year.

A total of 2,024 citizens had voted against Article 3, the collective bargaining agreement with the Windham Education Association, this past March. A total of 1,650 residents favored the proposed contract.

Should an agreement be reached, voters at the March 2014 ballots would have the final say on the matter.

This year's Windham School Deliberative session will take place in February, with voting to take place at the March 11 Town Meeting.

aguilmet@newstote.com


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