Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union ratifies teacher contract

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BENNINGTON — After months of difficult negotiations, the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union has ratified a new two-year teacher contract.

The new contract lays out how teacher salaries will be calculated and details the new health insurance plans that will be available to teachers. The new plans, from the Vermont Education Health Initiative, will roll out on Jan. 1 of next year. Teachers will continue with the same health plans they had under the last contract, which expired in June, until that point.

Tim Holbrook, who is chairman of the Mount Anthony Union School Board and was the chairman of the negotiations committee, said that the two sides had elected a two-year deal, rather than the typical three-year, due to the uncertainties in the health insurance market.

The boards ratified the contract at a carousel meeting in the Mount Anthony Union Middle School cafeteria on Tuesday. Each of the district's boards opened its meeting, voted on the contract, and closed the meeting. All of the votes were unanimous, and the meeting took just over 30 minutes to complete.

Salaries will increase by 3 percent overall in both FY2018 and FY2019. The first year will see step movement for all teachers, plus $143 added to each cell on the salary grid. The next year there will be no step movement, but $1,725 will be added to every cell. Nick Gault of the SVSU Human Resources Department said that this would allow salaries for entry-level employees to be competitive with other schools in the region, where they are currently lacking.

Superintendent Jim Culkeen said that the new health insurance plans are projected to be cost neutral to the school system. The new plans include a parent/child(ren) plan, in addition to the single, two person, and family plans that already existed. The schools will cover 80 percent of employee premiums for all plans, and the employee will cover the first 10 percent of out-of-pocket expenses.

Changes were also made to leaves of absences to come into alignment with the federal Family Medical Leave Act and Vermont's Parental and Family Leave Act, as well as how qualifications for severance, retirement, or death benefits are calculated, how professional development reimbursements are paid.

With the teacher contract settled, the boards will now look to ratify the contract with education support personnel. While negotiations on that contract are concluded, it is still being reviewed.

Reach staff writer Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122 or @DerekCarsonBB

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