After months of deliberations, the school committee and Winthrop Teachers Association (WTA) came to an agreement on teacher contracts. Chair of the negotiating subcommittee, Jen Powell, announced that teachers will get a 1.25 percent raise for the remainder of this year, a 2.25 percent raise for the 2020-2021 school year, and a 2.5 percent raise for the 2021-2022 school year, resulting in a 6-percent increase over three years.
“The current 2019-2020 budget has an appropriation for negotiations and we will make the necessary budget adjustments to cover the remaining cost,” said School Superintendent Lisa Howard. “This is a tight budget that was already below level services compared to last year. We will continue essential programs and fulfill all contracts but will look to reduce discretionary spending.”
While the WTA did not receive the schedule adjustments that they had asked for, the school committee agreed to form a committee between the union and the administration that will take scheduling into consideration, regarding start and end times. Teachers initially pushed for the same start and end times across all grades, however; the committee is concerned about how teacher start and end times will affect the student schedule and the need to regulate traffic as well as ensuring that parents have time to drop off children in multiple schools. The new committee will consider options and possibilities with the hopes of solving the dispute.
The committee did however; agree on common planning times. The contract addressed concerns about managing common planning time in the elementary schools. Under the agreement, there will be four days of common planning time directed by the building principal and one day that will be left to the discretion of the teachers.
In addition to salary increases, the committee has agreed to raise the amount of money that goes into the annual education fund, which supports advanced degrees, classes and courses that are required for teaching jobs. The increases are $6,000 for this year, $7,000 for the 2020-2021 school year, and $8,000 for the 2021-2022 school year.
With this added compensation, teachers will be required to notify the committee when they are scheduled to move onto the next step, so the committee can incorporate it into their budget planning.
“I’m very glad the school committee has kept this below 2.5 percent, because that’s all we can raise taxes by” said Town Council President, Phil Boncore.
Proposition 2.5 is a Massachusetts state law that limits the increases of property taxes in Massachusetts. The town cannot raise taxes more than 2.5 percent without having an override. In turn, this creates a challenge for the schools when the level service budget goes up more than 2.5 percent.
“The WTA was happy to be able to present a Memorandum of Understanding (MOA) to members of the teachers’ bargaining unit and the bargaining team felt this was the best possible agreement we could negotiate with the Winthrop School Committee,” said Kristen Reynolds, President of the WTA. “The teachers voted overwhelmingly in favor of the agreement Wednesday, January 22 after 15 months of negotiating. The WTA will now begin negotiations with the school committee on behalf of the nurses and ESPs, whose previous contract expired in August 2019 and the secretaries whose contract expired in June 2019.
We appreciate all of the support the Winthrop community has shown us and we ask for their continued support as we work to come to agreements on behalf of the rest of our members.”