By DAN TOMASELLO
NORTH READING — The school system’s teachers are getting a raise after the School Committee and North Reading Education Association (NREA) came to an agreement on a new three–year contract on Monday.
The contract, which was ratified by the NREA earlier this month, was approved in a 4–0 vote with one abstention. School Committee Chairwoman Janene Imbriano and committee members Jerry Venezia, Mel Webster and Julie Koepke voted in favor of the contract. School Committee member Cliff Bowers abstained because he has family members who work in the school system.
According to Venezia, teachers will be receiving a raise in each fiscal year of the three year pact from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2018. Teachers will receive a one percent raise in fiscal yar 2016, a 2 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) in fiscal 2017 and a 3 percent raise in fiscal 2018.
Venezia said the contract was crafted over the course of six months of “intense negotiations.” In addition to the cos of living adjustments local teachers will be receiving, Venezia said a new revised salary schedule will be instituted. He said the salary schedule is similar to other school districts. The salary schedule will include “nine lanes and 12 steps” for teachers who have a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate.
“This salary schedule is a much more traditional schedule,” said Venezia. “It’s consistent to a lot of salary schedules in other districts. We can now compare apples to apples instead of apples to oranges.”
Webster explained it was impossible to compare North Reading’s current salary schedule for teachers because it was completely different than other districts. He said the time has time has come to revamp the schedule.
“It makes it a lot easier to see where we are with our teachers and it’s easier for teachers to see where they are,” said Webster. “And when teachers come into the district or leave for another district, we are now on a one-to-one basis.”
Additionally, an amount of $15,000 will be set aside each fiscal year for course reimbursement for teachers beginning in fiscal 2017. Venezia said the courses teachers take will need to get approved before they are reimbursed.
Venezia said the sick leave buyback provision of the teachers contract will be eliminated in the beginning of fiscal 2018.
“We have been trying to get the sick leave buyback under control for the past 12 years,” said Venezia. “The step we have taken is eliminating it for all new hires.”
Venezia also said a subcommittee established under the terms of the present contract will continue discussing modifications to the extracurricular stipend structure, including coaches’ stipends.
“It was something we were hoping to do this time, but we were unable to get it done,” said Venezia.
In addition to Venezia and Webster, Superintendent of Schools Jon Bernard, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Patrick Daly and Finance Director Michael Connelly worked to negotiate the contract. Venezia personally thanked the NREA, including President Marc Gorgenyi, “for the professional manner which they conducted the negotiations.”
“It wasn’t always pleasant, but we got it done,” said Venezia. “I would like to thank Jon, Michael and Patrick for the great work they did. It’s always good to put the teacher’s contract to bed.”
“I think the NREA did a great job and we did a good job representing the community,” said Webster. “It’s hard to balance representing the community while wanting to reward the teachers. We don’t want teachers to think we don’t think highly of them, but at the same time we don’t taxpayers to think we are giving away the store.”
Published in the June 25, 2015 edition