More than a year of negotiations over the teacher contract in Westbrook could be coming to an end.

The membership of the Westbrook Education Association voted on a proposed agreement Tuesday in a closed meeting. The Westbrook School Committee scheduled a first vote Wednesday and a final vote Thursday.

Superintendent Peter Lancia said the contract itself would not be available to the public until after the school committee’s first vote, but he hoped it would allow the parties to move forward. The president of the Westbrook Education Association did not return a request for comment Wednesday, but the group’s Facebook page announced the agreement earlier in the week.

The contract covers nearly 260 employees — more than half of the staff in Westbrook schools. Their most recent contract expired in August. Routine negotiations and mediation failed. The two parties turned to a state panel to resolve their dispute, a step taken by only a small number of districts each year. The battle became public this spring when teachers protested at a Westbrook School Committee meeting and outside their schools. But the Maine Labor Relations Board sided with the district on several key issues in May.

Both parties said the financial components of the contract — salary increases and benefits — had already been decided. Negotiations are confidential, but the decision from the state labor board revealed more details about the conflict.

The association wanted to add language to the contract about teacher workload and scheduling. For example, two new sections would have spelled out the amount of preparation time afforded to teachers. One would have compensated teachers at a reduced rate for extra hours if their work days were extended. Another would have slightly increased pay for teachers with classes over a certain size — 15 students for kindergarten teachers and 18 students for teachers in other grades.

However, district leadership argued those ideas fell under the umbrella of education policy, which cannot be bargained and must be set by the school committee. On seven of nine proposals, the state labor board agreed.

The parties came to their agreement on the remaining two proposals and other unresolved issues within the last two weeks.


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