KENNEBUNK – The Kennebunk, Arundel, Kennebunkport Education Association was to institute a “work to rule” effort on Tuesday, June 1 and scheduled a downtown march for Friday, June 4.

In the meantime, there were meetings scheduled between the RSU 21 board and the union for June 1 and June 3, according to Jenessa Cadorette, education association president.

“We are absolutely hopeful that both sides will come to a resolution by June 3, so that our members can ratify the contract before our last day of school on June 15,” said Cadorette in a Monday, May 31 email.

RSU 21 Board of Directors and the education association have been in negotiations for on a new, three-year contract that would begin Sept. 1 and extend through Aug. 31, 2024.

“There are complex issues at the negotiation table, particularly during these difficult times,” said RSU 21 Board Chair Art LeBlanc in a message to the community on the district’s website. “The board’s goal is to resolve these issues as soon as possible. We will have disagreements at the table, but let’s not let the process negatively impact our children.”

LeBlanc, a member of the negotiating team, said he’ll attend the meetings with an open mind and work in good faith to support teachers within the limits set by the proposed budget.

The current expires Aug. 31. “We are committed to resolving our negotiations, ideally, well before that date,” said LeBlanc.

In the statement, LeBlanc said the board proposed a 3 percent budget increase for salaries, which will go to voters on June 8 as part of the validation vote.

Cadorette said the 3 percent specifically speaks to budgetary impact.

“It is not 3 percent for all, and that is disheartening,” said Cadorette. “So much more than raises are at stake as part of the contract, including health benefits, paid leave, continuing education reimbursement, etc.”

The education association contract covers teachers, librarians, speech pathologists, school counselors and nurses.  The school board, at the request of the union, LeBlanc said, voted May 27 to expand the recognition clause, adding physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, school psychologists and instructional strategists.

“The (union) is seeking community and district support of our teachers after a particularly difficult year in education,” said Cadorette. “We were once praised for going above and beyond to ensure that our students’ needs were met, but now we are faced with resistance and a “take it or leave it” attitude. ”

Work to rule means teachers will work to the letter of the contract and will not be available to do anything outside of their defined hours, said Cadorette. She said members were to wear red in solidarity and enter and exit their buildings in unity.

LeBlanc said the teachers’ association asked for two contract negotiations during the pandemic, and the parties signed the first on Dec. 15, which added new COVID-19 provisions to the current contract “for the health, safety, and professional well-being of all teachers and association members, including guaranteed full pay for coaches and advisors in stipend positions.”

He said the district is trying to balance providing a competitive total compensation package for teachers at a cost financially responsible to taxpayers.

“In the current teacher’s contract, there are multiple examples where some teachers get a raise that is three times less than a comparable teacher’s raise, based on relatively similar completed years of service,” said LeBlanc. “This is just one example of the important issues we are seeking to resolve.”

He said another concern is the rising cost of health care benefits, noting the district spends more than $6 million annually for health care coverage.

Cadorette said RSU 21 staff has done everything asked of them. “It is time they see the reciprocation and are treated like the professionals they have always proven themselves to be,” she said.

The education association has organized a “Red for Ed” event, that asks participants to dress in red for a march through downtown Kennebunk at 3:30 p.m. Friday, June 4.

“Having a contract ratified by then will be a means of celebration, otherwise, we will continue to speak loudly and often for a fair contract,” Cadorette said.

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