Published DateBy Lloyd Jones
BARTLETT — Teachers in Bartlett will go a second year without a new contract, but this time by choice after rejecting a negotiated agreement.
A proposed contract last year was rejected by voters.
The Bartlett School Board on Tuesday was prepared to approve a negotiated one-year agreement with the Bartlett Education Association, but just hours before the regularly scheduled monthly meeting the board learned the teachers' union had rejected the deal.
"The BEA did not ratify the proposed agreement," Vicki Harlow, chair of the Bartlett School Board, told a crowd of about 60 people who had turned out for the board's planned budget hearing on the 2013-14 budget and warrant articles as well as the regular board meeting. "Therefore the contract will not appear on the annual district meeting warrant (March 5)."
Carl Nelson, school superintendent, said Wednesday that a "tentative agreement" had been reached last month between the negotiating teams for both the school board and the union.
"The board was going to ratify it last night," Nelson said, but after learning the teachers had chose not to ratify the deal, "chose to take no action" on the matter.
Nelson said a date has not yet been set for the parties to resume negotiations.
"I had a brief conversation with Jay Tolman (National Education Assocation's New Hampshire North Country Region UniServ director) and he envisions that happening later this spring," he said.
Without a new contract, the parameters of the latest contract will remain in place. The two sides will work to ratify a contract for 2014-15 school year.
Voters shot down a proposed 2013-14 contract 198-121 at school meeting last March 6. Within days of the defeat, the Bartlett Education Association contacted the board wanting to resume negotiations to see if a new deal could be brokered.
The contract that was rejected by voters would have given 23 of the 32 teachers at the Josiah Bartlett Elementary School $2,700 pay raises each of the next two years (on the heels of already having received similar raises under the prior two-year contract) as well as provide 20 of them with $1,000 each year in longevity pay. Despite the contract failing, the teachers still received the $1,000 per year longevity pay, something they've been getting for a number of years, but is not included directly in the teacher salary.
Board members Nancy Kelemen and Dan Perley negotiated a new contract that the board approved 3-2 in July, but that contract never went to the voters because Superior Court judge Steve Houran determined in August there was not an emergency need for a special school district meeting.
"We'll move forward, try to be positive and work to bring forward something that will work for all of us next March," Robin Fall, president of the Bartlett Education Association, said in late August.
On Wednesday, Fall by email stated that she could not comment on the most recent contract that was rejected by the union.
"We are still in the negotiations' process," she wrote. "Because of that, I am unable to provide any more details at this time."
The July contract amounted to roughly a $29,000 increase to the budget. Highlights of the brokered deal included raising the starting teacher salary to $30,000; increasing to the retirement incentive from 2.5 percent to 3 percent of the final year's salary for each year of employment up to a maximum of 20 years; the district would have provided retirees with the same health insurance plan at the rate of $4,500 per year until the retiree reaches Medicare eligibility; and the elimination of one step from the 12-step salary scale. Twenty six employees who have surpassed the maximum step would not have received salary increases in the new contract.
It was six pages in length and included 12 negotiated items, some of which were minor word changes in the contract.