Freeport-Pownal-Durham teachers to vote next week on contract

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FREEPORT — The Coastal Education Association, citing the need to examine details more fully, will wait until May 22 to vote on a proposed three-year labor contract approved last week by the Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors.

School Board members voted unanimously for the contract on May 9. It would run through June 30, 2014.

Details of the contract will not be fully revealed until it is approved by the union. But it will be the first comprehensive agreement for about 175 union members working in Freeport, Durham and Pownal since RSU 5 was formed three years ago.

Association President Nancy Drolet said the agreement will create conforming salaries and working conditions for educators. But she was unsure about how the details will be received by the union rank and file.

“I have no idea of what direction people will take,” Drolet said. “They are getting in groups to look at what they have gained and what they have lost.”

She said she wants union members to take time reviewing the contract and to be specific about what they may not like.

Workplace conditions covered in the contract include provisions for sick days, leave time, grievance rights, transfers within the district and professional development, Superintendent of Schools Shannon Welsh said.

“I believe we negotiated a solid contract for the RSU, one I think will help us continue to provide a quality education while attracting and retaining quality teachers,” Welsh said.

School Board Chairman Nelson Larkins said the board may have had some reservations about the contract, but he was pleased by the collaboration between the sides.

“None of us are professionals at this, we were just trying to get it right,”Larkins said.

Larkins and Drolet agreed the work in crafting the contract went beyond finances, to cover areas of working conditions that were handled differently when Durham, Freeport and Pownal had independent school departments.

The Coastal Education Association was formed shortly after the RSU was created. The board and union had agreed previously on two prior years of pay increases based on experience and professional development, but the overriding framework remained elusive.

The process was sometimes contentious. Union members dissatisfied with a lack of progress made their case publicly with pink signs, buttons and T-shirts; when parents and students visited local schools this spring for conferences, they were greeted by teachers handing out information.

Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen was also greeted by union members silently, but visibly, making their case when he spoke at Freeport High School last month.

Drolet and Larkins said it took evening and weekend sessions to reach the agreement.

“Literally, it was just a matter of taking the time and doing it all,” Larkins said. “There were disagreements, but that is part of negotiations.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Sidebar Elements

RSU 5 budget meeting on deck

FREEPORT — Regional School Unit 5 residents will have their first votes on the $24.9 million fiscal 2013 school budget at a 6:30 p.m. public meeting on May 23 at Freeport High School.

The proposed budget was passed by the School Board at its May 9 meeting. The May 23 public meeting allows residents of Freeport, Durham and Pownal the chance to vote for or against specific amounts in 11 “cost centers,” including administration, special education and transportation.

According to budget documents, the entire budget presents an almost 2.3 percent spending increase, with an additional $335,000 in state subsidies offsetting the loss of $432,000 in federal jobs bill funding.

The budget requires $18.2 million in property tax revenue, with $13.6 million from Freeport residents, $3.2 million from Durham residents and $1.7 million from Pownal residents.

Durham and Pownal residents will each see more than 5 percent increases in their property tax shares of the budget.

The entire budget will be on the June 12 ballot as a referendum question.

— David Harry

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.