Vote set for Wednesday on teachers contract

WILTON – The board of the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District and the school’s teachers have agreed on a new three-year contract, but the district’s Budget Committee says the percentage increases are too high given the economic climate.

A special district meeting to discuss and vote on the contract will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the high school.

The teachers at the cooperative middle and high school are working without a contract. A one-year proposal was voted down last spring.

Jean Scagel, a member of the board’s negotiating team, said the board “feels pretty good about the contract,” adding she thought they had addressed all of the concerns expressed last spring – concerns that led to the contract being voted down.

At a recent public hearing on the budget, board Chairwoman Gretchen Dunn said voters last spring wanted a multi-year contract, an increase in the base pay for beginning teachers and a change in the longevity part of the yearly step increases.

As the pay scale is set up, any teacher who has been in the system long enough to be above the highest step is given a yearly stipend – $550 for the first three years and $750 per year afterward – but that stipend was accumulative, Scagel said. The new contract eliminates that.“It could have accumulated over the years and would have cost us a lot,” Scagel said. “We also needed to find a way to make the first half of the step schedule competitive with surrounding districts, and that added something (to the increases).”

Next year, the school will switch to block scheduling, she said, “And we feel we are asking the teachers to do more. And we want to support (Principal) Trevor Ebel in all he’s trying to do, and he’s working on the block.”

The board is also pleased with the three-year contract, she said.

“None of us wanted to do a single year. I know this is a bad time of year,” she added, “and everyone’s just gotten their tax bills, but we aren’t out of line with this.”

The new contract will cost an additional $96,446 the first year, $120,041 the second year and $111,389 the third year based on the current staff.

However, Budget Committee Chairman David Roemer said, “It’s just too much money. It figures out to 7 percent the first year, 6 percent the second and 5 percent the third. We think the numbers are too large, given the climate and the economy. That is the decision the committee reached.”

Candace Rapf, speaking for the teachers’ association, said she was “sorry the committee reached that decision. If we don’t get this contract, I don’t know what it will do to morale.” She urged residents to “come out and vote for us.”

Roemer said it was a decision for the voters to make.

“Let’s hope for a big turnout at the meeting,” Roemer said.

If the contract is approved, Wilton and Lyndeborough will send out supplemental tax bills to cover the additional costs.