Teachers in Freeport, Pownal, Durham OK new contract

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FREEPORT — After more than three years of negotiations and some frustrations, teachers, guidance counselors, school nurses, social workers, therapists and other staff in Regional School Unit 5 have a signed contract.

“It’s time to mend fences and move on,” Coastal Education Association President Nancy Drolet said. “The vote was made and we need to become a school family again.”

The three-year pact extending through June 30, 2014, was approved 65-56 on May 30 by members of the association. It was the second union vote for the contract, coming after a 58-58 deadlock on May 22.

The RSU 5 School Board unanimously approved the contract May 9.

The contract sets the annual pay rate based on a 180-day school year while allowing the board to add days. Union members will be paid on a per diem basis for days worked above the 180-day threshold.

The contract sets a base pay scale of $32,000 for educators holding bachelor’s degrees and no “steps” for experience or professional development. Educators with a master’s degree and no steps will earn a starting salary of $35,600 and educators with a doctorate and no steps will earn more than $39,000 to start.

The salary for teachers holding a doctorate with the maximum 26 steps will be more than $66,000.

“Durham will see the biggest increase; Pownal had a number of experienced teachers at the top of the scale,” Drolet said.

Drolet and RSU 5 board Chairman Nelson Larkins said reaching an agreement had the most to do with creating conforming language to replace three separate contracts that once covered teachers in Durham, Freeport and Pownal. The three towns merged to form RSU 5 in 2009.

“We were all over the place on work days, what time you started and ended,” Drolet said.

The contract also created uniform stipends for coaching and leading student activities, and how much time teachers are required to spend in conferences and individual education planning sessions.

The contract covers about 175 union members. 

This spring, union members gathered outside schools carrying signs and handouts to express their dissatisfaction with the pace of negotiations. About 30 union members were on hand to silently greet Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen in the same manner when he spoke in Freeport in April.

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

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.