Yarmouth teachers accept 1-year salary freeze

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YARMOUTH — In the face of budget shortfalls and reductions in state funding, the town and teachers have agreed to a one-year salary freeze.

The new contract was ratified by members of the Yarmouth Educators Association and unanimously approved by the School Board on Thursday, Jan. 14.

The new contract runs from Sept. 1 through Aug. 31, 2013. It includes no increase in teacher salaries for the first year, and an increase the following two years based on the cost of living. Salaries will be increased no less than 0.5 percent and no more than 2 percent. Benefits are unchanged.

In exchange for the freeze in the first year, two professional development days will be removed from the schedule. The contract provides an opportunity for the School Committee to add this time back into the teacher schedule at a later date.

High school teacher Rick Biskup, president of the teachers’ union, called the agreement a “great piece of work.”

“The School Committee has been fantastic,” he said. “We are so fortunate to have these people approach the contract from a problem solving perspective.”

He said the association voted 98 percent in favor of the three-year contract.

Superintendent of Schools Judy Paolucci said the collective bargaining agreement was developed with the economic climate, education and the needs of the teachers in mind.

“We see school districts around us struggling with the same difficulties, and decided we had to come to the table as partners to reach a solution,” she said. “We had to think outside the box.”

Paolucci said the contract is fair and respects the teachers.

“We are happy the contract is in place, and everyone is on board,” she said. “These teachers are so valuable and we want to do what we can for them.”

School Committee Chairman David Ray said he has negotiated teacher contracts three times in the past, and was very pleased with the outcome this year.

“These are always difficult negotiations, but this year is a true reflection of where we are in the state and in the economy,” he said. “Nobody knows what will happen economically, but this contract is a fair and creative way to compromise. It has been a remarkable process.”

Both Ray and Biskup said the contract is fair to not only the teachers, but to the taxpayers.

“To base the salary increases on the cost of living ties us to economic growth,” Ray said. “The high/low agreement gives us a range and allows for growth in years two and three.”

Biskup said the contract represents a balance between the interests of educators, administrators, elected representatives for the school and town, taxpayers and students.

“I believe that any objective, open-minded person reading the elements of this agreement would readily concede that it represents not only creative thinking and quality problem solving,” he said, “but is something that is eminently fair to all parties.”

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 or [email protected]