The School Committee began negotiations with the Stoughton Teacher’s Association (STA) on February 4, 2013. We have met regularly up until our last bargaining session. At our last bargaining session on August 26, the School Committee’s negotiators offered to meet once more before the end of the contract and the beginning of the school year to present yet another proposal but that offer was turned down by the Teacher’s Association. The School Committee did offer another proposal by email on August 30. This offer was in direct response to the Teacher’s Association’s concerns that the School Committee was not doing enough to attract and retain new teachers. Since February 4 there have been three substantive offers on the table by the School Committee. Each offer presented a fair but new salary plan that included increases which are equitable and also sustainable in light of budgetary constraints. The STA made no movement to come to resolution. In fact, the STA filed their Unfair Labor Practice against the School Committee for non-payment of steps on July 11, 2013, demonstrating that they had no intention of having a negotiated contract in place for the beginning of the school year.
On the opening day of school, Andrea Pires, STA President, told the teachers that the School Committee was proposing a cut in pay, a longer school day, and less sick days. This is a gross misrepresentation of the School Committee’s proposals. The latest proposal has a base pay and step structure that increases the starting salary of a new teacher by 10% and increases pay for teachers at the top step by 1%.
This is without any consideration for other contractual increases in compensation such incentives for new programming or educational advancement. The Committee’s plan spreads the increase over a few additional steps, thereby reducing our yearly escalation in our salary line in the budget. No one will be taking home less money than they did the year before, and many will be taking home substantially more. We have asked to increase the school day at the Middle and High School levels by 40 minutes per week (eight minutes a day) to allow us to overhaul the High School schedule and thus be able to offer our students an opportunity to take more electives. This proposal would allow our students to fit in desired classes that are often bumped from their schedules due to conflicts. At all levels we are working to build more teacher collaboration time into the schedule.
And lastly we have not proposed the elimination of any sick time, rather the tightening of reporting and documentation of sick time in excess of three consecutive days. This is in large part to answer to the rampant abuse of sick time that has for too long infected the culture of the system. This pattern of abuse was recently highlighted in our District Review by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).
The tactic of the Teacher’s Association in filing numerous unfounded complaints, Unfair Labor Practices, and grievances timed with the expiration of their contract is not new. It is a common tactic used by the statewide Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA). It is an intimidation tactic used to try to gain public support and sympathy. In the past they have used political demonstrations, votes of no confidence, and work to rule practices to garner attention. These practices are extremely irresponsible and only hurt our students. We are deeply troubled that the Association has stooped to these radical tactics to win what they could not gain at the bargaining table. These hurtful tactics only benefit the Association while damaging the finances and reputation of the Town of Stoughton. The School Committee is extremely grateful for the overwhelming support in the town for the schools, including our most recent efforts to secure funding for new school facilities. While Ms. Pires has already asked her union membership to cease all but a limited number of volunteer activities, the School Committee is ready to continue to bargain a fair agreement for the teachers and the taxpayers.
All of the other School bargaining units in the schools have reached agreement and had ratified fair agreements, including the Unit B administrators (Vice Principals and Directors) which are also represented by the MTA. All completed collective bargaining contracts, including the expired Unit A contract, will be posted to the school website at: