Maine School Administrative District 75 school board chairwoman Linda Hall reviews terms of the new teacher contract the school board approved Thursday night. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

TOPSHAM — Maine School Administrative District 75 teachers will see a 7.5% pay increase in the first year of a new contract approved unanimously by the school board Thursday.

That’s a total of $1.12 million, which Business Manager Mark Conrad said is already available within the budget. The district budgeted only about $500,000 for anticipated salary increases but voters added another $600,000 to the budget for salaries at the district budget meeting in May.

Conrad said the contract makes for the largest budget item increase in the school’s 2019-20 budget.

The 2019-2022 contract contains an overall 15.6% or nearly $2.3 million increase. The last contract expired at the end of August and Hall said Wednesday the new contract is retroactive.

Teacher pay will increase by 3.1% or $492,340 the second year and by 4.1% or $671,149 the third year. That year, health coverage drops from 95% the first two years to 94%.

The prior 3-year contract included 95% health coverage as well.

The salary proposals was the major factor to consider during contract negotiations that started back in January, Hall said. However, parental leave is another big component of the contract and replaced maternity leave.

“Either parent can take up to 12 weeks of leave,” she said. “They can be paid for them using their sick leave days.”

Parental leave starts when the parent’s child is born or is adopted. The prior contract only provided 6 weeks of maternity leave only for mothers who gave birth and was vague on when maternity leave started.

There are also provisions in the event the school district lays off any teachers. They will be laid off in reverse order of seniority except when a less senior teacher is “clearly more qualified to provide programs” Hall said. That may be based on certifications, experience, effectiveness and training. The district must provide its rationale for that decision.

“As any negotiation process goes,  you’re not going to get everything that you’d hope and they didn’t get everything that they hoped,” said Nicole Karod, president-elect of the Merrymeeting Teachers Association.

“They gave a little bit and we gave a little bit,” and both found common ground, she said after Thursday’s vote.

Maine School Administrative District 75 school board members vote in favor of a new 3-year contract with the Merrymeeting Teachers Association Thursday. Darcie Moore / The Times Record

She sees the new contract as a step toward narrowing the gap between teacher salaries in MSAD 75 compared to what teachers are paid in neighboring school systems.

“I think we can build some of the relationships between the board, the association and the board and all teachers, and move forward,” she said. “Our ultimate goal in all of this was the kids and so… we want to push forward to do the best for our students.”

Hall, who chaired the negotiating team for the school board, said it has been a long process. It took outside mediators from the Maine Labor Relations Board attending a fact-finding meeting in October to get everyone communicating and to come together, she said.

“We are very pleased that this has been finalized and that we can move forward,” she said after the school board meeting Thursday. “We’re glad to get back to the business of educating our children and I hope our teachers feel the same. I think they do.”

 

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