Aldermen reject principal contract

NASHUA – Weeks after the school year began, principals who watch over the city’s schools continue to work without a contract.

The Nashua Association of School Principals suffered a second defeat after its proposed three-year contract was rejected by the Board of Aldermen.

Aldermen voted it down 9-5 with no discussion.

Ward 9 Alderman Robert Shaw was absent.

Susan Nelson, principal of Charlotte Avenue Elementary school and a leader of the union, said the school administrators negotiated in good faith with the Board of Education to achieve a contract, only to have it rejected by aldermen.

“We’re a little disheartened,” Nelson said about the 37 members of the association. Two aldermanic committees had already turned it down, so the defeat was not a great surprise, she said.

Principals unsuccessfully urged aldermen to consider a list of reasons to support the contract, from larger salary increases given to other school unions and the amount of time principals spend in the schools working with students, faculty, and the community, to an area survey of 13 school districts that the union officials said would put Nashua in the No. 7 spot on a salary scale once a contract was signed.

The principals had accepted salary increases that were lower than other school-related contracts, Nelson said.

The three-year contract included a salary increase of 4.35 percent the first year, 3.82 percent the second, and 4.06 percent the third, along with a sick leave buyback program worth $7,400.

The first rejected contract included a provision for the Nashua School District to match up to $500 for an administrator’s tax-deferred annuity. Aldermen rejected the idea, saying other city unions would soon want the same provision.

But Alderman-at-Large David Deane said the issue boiled down to money.

“You have to draw the line somewhere,” he said, noting how the community invested millions of dollars in the schools, the workplace of principals.

A salary increase of around 2.4 percent would be acceptable, he said.

Ward 1 Alderman Kathryn Vitale said principals deserved the contract since they work longer hours and more time during the year than teachers.

There is a gap of only about $30 between what a top-earning teacher and an assistant principal collect in salary per day, she said.

“If they come in within a 3 percent range, that’ll be good,” Vitale said about passing a contract.

Earlier in the meeting, principals promoted their jobs to sway aldermen.

Patti Place, the principal at the alternative middle school, said she loves being a part of a student’s life and making a difference in those lives.

The schools in Nashua are engaged in big changes, making it an exciting place to work, with the two high schools and converting the middle schools, Place said.

And the proposed contract is fair and equitable, she said.

Favoring the contract were: Ward 1 Alderman Kathryn Vitale, Ward 6 Alderman Robert Dion, Ward 7 Alderman Lori Cardin, Alderman-at-Large Brian McCarthy, and Alderman-at-Large Steve Bolton, its sponsor.

Against the contract were: Ward 2 Alderman Richard LaRose, Ward 3 Alderman Kevin Gage, Ward 4 Alderman Marc Plamondon, Ward 5 Alderman David Lozeau, Ward 8 Alderman David MacLaughlin, Alderman-at-Large David Deane, Alderman-at-Large David Rootovich, Alderman-at-Large Paula Johnson, and Alderman-at-Large Jim Tollner.