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March 08. 2014 8:54PM

Hopkinton makes quick work of giving annual raises

HOPKINTON - Voters were not in the mood for debate at Saturday's school district meeting at the high school, easily passing the district's operating budget and contracts for teachers and custodians.

The $17,968,362 operating budget sailed through by a vote of 222 to 42 after a brief deliberation concerning the move to make kindergarten a full day program.

A couple of residents believed that making the program a full-day one was not in the best interest of the taxpayers, but others said the program is essential for young students.

"It's about a lot more than day care or the ability to get kids to school for a half-day," said Amanda Gilman.

"This is the way of the future and if we don't do it, our children will be left behind," she said.

After five years without a contract, the teachers and the school board will get a break from negotiating after voters approved a four-year contract.

The contract will cost taxpayers $448,692 in the first year and it eliminates a cap on healthcare, allows for flexibility with scheduling so that the district can explore "non-traditional" classes, and gives teachers raises each year, said school board member Matthew Cairns.

Superintendent Steve Chamberlin said the contract also has language that creates collaboration between educators and requires them to review the growth of each student on a regular basis.

But because of uncertainty with the federal Affordable Care Act, known as "Obamacare," the district and the teachers agreed to a "circuit breaker" clause that would give the district the ability to cut the contract from four years to three should health care costs spiral out of control, Cairns said.

"If something goes wrong with healthcare, we've got that circuit breaker built in," he said.

Currently, the cost of insuring a family under the teachers' health-care plan is $21,000 per year, Cairns said.

Voters almost unanimously supported the contract, which Cairns said will give everyone involved a much-needed reprieve from the bargaining table and allow the school board and teachers to focus on education instead of negotiation.

A contract to provide raises for custodial staff passed without comment and will provide raises of five percent in the first year and three percent in the second year of the two-year contract.


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