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March 08. 2013 10:58PM

Teachers' contract goes to Windham voters

WINDHAM - A long-awaited new contract for Windham's teachers was the topic of much discussion at Tuesday night's school board meeting.

In response to letters written from citizens concerned about the contract's costs, school board member Stephanie Wimmer, who served on the district's negotiation committee, offered an explanation of the collective bargaining process and the new contract heading before voters Tuesday.

Wimmer said a team consisting of board members, administrators and legal counsel assisted them in the bargaining process.

"We wanted to make sure we were both rewarding our teachers and keeping our responsibility to our taxpayers," Wimmer said.

Since the July 2011 expiration of the Windham teachers' current contract, the laws have changed, Wimmer noted. "One of the big changes we've seen legislatively is health care reform, so we're keeping an eye to those changes," she said.

A new feature of the contract makes provisions for individual teacher ratings and opportunities for high-performing teachers to earn bonuses. Teachers receive an extensive evaluation every three years in the Windham district and under the new contract, those who score high would be eligible for one-time monetary bonuses, which would be separate from their base salaries.

"We did our budget hoping a lot of teachers would be distinguished, but it's not enforced," Wimmer said.

One cost-saving method proposed for next year includes increased co-pays for prescriptions, which Wimmer said could save the district $670,000 next year. Employees will still have several plan options to choose from depending on their family size and budgets. The board urged public support of the contract.

"We have some of the most phenomenal educators in this district," Wimmer said. "Even without a contract for the past two years, they haven't wavered in their commitment to our children."

If voters at the March 12 polls pass the three-year contract, Article 3 would increase the budget by $107,259 next year and by $563,473 the following year. Next year's residential tax impact of Article 3 would be 5 cents per $1,000.

Voters will also decide on Article 4, a three-year contract with the district's instructional assistants. That contract would increase the budget by $64,594 next year and $82,904 the following year if passed. Employees working 30 hours per week or more would also receive $200 towards health insurance for a $200 buyout with proof of coverage. If passed, Article 4 would have a 3-cent per $1,000 tax impact.



aguilmet@newstote.com


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