By Mary Smith
Weathersfield Local Schools teachers took up informational pickets of the schools Thursday to let the community know they believe they are being treated unfairly in contract negotiations.
“We are fighting for our rights,” Tammie McCall, president of the Mineral Ridge Education Association said. The MREA represents 65 teachers.
Schools Superintendent Damon Dohar, however, said that the district is still operating in the red, even though it has a $1.7 million carry-over balance.
“To me, it’s the long-term effect,” Dohar said. He said he continues to be worried about state funding and potential new cuts to the district.
Teachers are working under a three-year contract, which went into effect on July 16, 2010, to July 15, 2012.
A starting teacher was at $27,748 annually in 2010 and realized a $624 increase to $28,372 in 2011 and a $426 increase to $28,798 in 2012.
A teacher at the top of the scale went from $62,466 in 2011 to $66,249, (a $3,783 increase) and $67,243 in 2012 (a $994 increase).
Teachers were promised by the school board, McCall said, that they would be given a raise if funds were available under a wage re-opener included in the contract for 2012.
The talks have gone to mediation and then to a fact-finder in October, and the fact-finder has determined that the district can afford to give teachers a 2 percent increase.
The board has offered teachers a $500 signing bonus and a zero percent increase.
Teachers offered a 1.5 percent increase in talks on Dec. 10, which was declined by the board. Another negotiation session is scheduled for Monday.
Dohar said that with the increase in the first two years of the pact, most teachers made between $3,000 and $5,000 more. He noted the increase was put on the base salary for a new teacher, so all of the indexes for teachers have gone up.
He added teachers can still get raises based on their steps in the index.
He added that the district has had an increase in health care costs in the past year of $124,000, none of which has been passed onto the teachers.
Negotiations for the re-opener have been going on since March.