KENNEBUNK – The RSU 21 School Board, along with teachers and others represented by the Kennebunk Arundel and Kennebunkport Educators Association, ratified a new three-year contract last week.

The agreement includes salary adjustments, two additional instructional days, incentives for national teaching certification and other adjustments, and is effective Sept. 1. It expires Aug. 31, 2024.

“It is truly exciting that the school board of directors and KAKEA negotiating teams collaborated in good faith and reached agreement on a new contract that covers our teachers, nurses, specialists, and instructional personnel,” said RSU 21 Superintendent Dr. Terri Cooper in a news release.

The school board also ratified a contract with the Transportation Employees Association, who were scheduled to vote on its contract sometime this week.

“Through a collaborative negotiating process and agreement, we were able to support our teachers and transportation professionals, advance professionalism and be responsible to the taxpayer,” said Cooper.

School board Chair Art LeBlanc outlined the changes voted upon by the school board and the union in the education association contract.

“Kennebunk Arundel and Kennebunkport Educators Association provided data from the Maine Educator’s Association and the RSU 21 board negotiations team compiled data from the actual contracts of 18 school districts in York and Cumberland counties so that our entire process would be grounded in using current market competitive data on teacher salaries, workdays, and benefits,” said LeBlanc. “One goal of the board was to ensure parity and consistency of our salary administration across each year of service, from 0 to 29 years, and to evaluate equity and market competitiveness among other comparable high-performing school districts in southern Maine.

“We made competitive adjustments to increase the rate of pay and salary for faculty in the earlier years of their career. Each year of the contract funds between a 3 to 4 percent overall increase as supported by our approved fiscal year 2022 budget.”

There are three primary drivers for pay within the contract: service – each year of completed experience adds a new “step” in pay – annual cost of living adjustments, and education attainment, where faculty get more money when they earn a masters or doctorate degree.

The contract creates a “Masters plus-30” category, addressing the gap between masters and doctorate degree attainment for teachers and instructional personnel in the classroom.

“Now, if a KAKEA member has a master’s degree and then earns 30 additional approved credits, they receive a pay increase by moving to the new Masters plus-30 scale,” LeBlanc said.

The three-year agreement adds two instructional days, from 182 to 184, in line with other districts. Cooper is looking for federal funding to pay for those days in the first year, as part of her COVID-19 recovery plan

Educational reimbursements now have a cap, LeBlanc said.

He said there are no health insurance benefit changes for existing employees in the contract – covered services, copays and coinsurance remains the same. The district pays 82 percent of health insurance premiums.

The new contract does spell out that all education association employees who sign employment contracts after June 17 will now have the same health insurance benefits as both the Educational Technicians and Transportation employees. Spouses may be added to RSU 21 health insurance only if they are not offered health insurance from their employer, LeBlanc said. This clause is now in place for future employees joining RSU21 and provides equity for all bargained employees, he said.

“This was an important equity issue that needed to be corrected. Since 2013 and 2015 respectively, the other RSU 21 employees covered under a bargained agreement can only cover their spouse or partner if that person does not have coverage elsewhere. For example, they are not working or their employer does not offer health care benefits,” LeBlanc said.

Teachers are encouraged to attain National Board Certification for Professional Teaching Standard. The state compensates for certification, but doesn’t always have the full $3,000 per teacher earmarked for the program. LeBlanc said the RSU 21 board agreed to pay the difference between state funding up to $2,500 in any contract year. He said the national certification has been shown to directly improve student outcomes.

“The RSU 21 board supported this contract with a unanimous vote of approval and considers it to be balanced and fair to all of our dedicated teachers, nurses, specialists, and instructional personnel,” LeBlanc said. He said the details will be shared more fully at a future RSU 21 board workshop.

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