The Other Side of the Conversation in Tiverton

Having just received the press release that the Tiverton School Committee sent around on Sunday, I’m surprised not to have heard the details of its side of the negotiation elsewhere:

“Just as with the health care proposal, we have been working with NEA-Tiverton regarding salary issues,” stated deMedeiros. “However, it was our understanding that the two parties were trying to negotiate these issues at the negotiation table, not in the media. Given the NEA’s decision to suggest publicly that we have not provided them with salary proposals, we now feel obligated to share publicly the two proposals we’ve made to NEA. The most recent of these proposals was submitted to the NEA-Tiverton leadership on August 16th and the NEA has not yet responded.”
The School Committee’s original salary proposal, submitted to NEA-Tiverton on May 8, 2007 was for a 3% total increase over the life of the 3-year contract, spread out as 1% in each year. These raises would be in addition to step increases also included in the contract proposal. Additionally, the Committee suggested providing salary incentives for teachers who have attained a Doctorate and those who have achieved national teacher board certification.
The School Committee received a counter-proposal from NEA-Tiverton on August 8th which called for a 12% total increase over the life of the contract, spread out as 4% in each year. These raises would also be in addition to step increases included in the contract proposal. While the NEA agreed with the addition of incentives for teachers who attain a Doctorate or achieve national board certification, the amount of those incentives differed substantially.
The School Committee reviewed the NEA’s proposal on August 14th and immediately provided NEA-Tiverton with a counter-proposal that would provide a 4.5% total increase over the life of the contract with the annual percentages to be determined as part of the final contract negotiations. This counter-proposal was submitted to the Union on August 16th. Again, these raises would be in addition to step increases included in the contract proposal and the Committee kept their recommendations regarding Doctorate and national certification incentives.
Additionally, the Committee indicates that the District’s health care proposal submitted to the NEA on May 8, 2007, is projected to save the District approximately $270,000 based on projected cost increases for health care. NEA-Tiverton has not yet provided a response to the Committee’s proposal. The Committee twice considered and health savings account proposal given them by NEA-Tiverton and twice rejected it as too costly to the District.
“We are sharing this to make sure that it is clear that we have presented two proposals to NEA-Tiverton regarding salaries but have not yet heard back from the NEA on our latest proposal which they were given on August 16th,” said deMedeiros. “As you can see, it is not the School Committee that has delayed in making decisions on proposals. The NEA did not respond to our initial salary and benefit proposal for three months after we gave it to them. Each time we’ve received proposals, we’ve responded within a matter of a week or two. We are still waiting on their response to the counter-proposal we gave them on August 16th.”
deMedeiros finished with stating “We must also underscore that we have a very limited amount of money with which to negotiate. We anticipate that costs will increase in other areas, such as heating oil and supplies, as they do normally. We are obligated to come to agreement on a contract which is fair to all parties involved — our students, our parents, our taxpayers, our teachers and the District, which is one that allows Tiverton to maintain high-quality schools that are affordable to our taxpayers.”

The union has been using the media to generate the impression that the school committee has been playing games, but given the information that didn’t make it into the stories — at first because the committee didn’t wish to publicly release details of its negotiations — it looks as if the union just didn’t like the terms to which fiscal restraints limit the town. As I expected, for example, the union’s healthcare proposal wasn’t floating in a void; its savings were not equal to those planned by the school committee.
In response to an email from one of the NEA negotiators (also a Tiverton teacher), School Committee Vice Chairperson Michael Burk explained:

I am sure you are aware that the Committee could not hold a meeting without providing proper written public notice 48 hours in advance. I believe that [Superintendent] Rearick indicated yesterday morning that he would have us post a meeting for Tuesday evening, the earliest we would be able to do so in compliance with the open meetings laws. Since your team decided to not present Mr. Rearick with a proposal, we were unable to schedule such a meeting. However, as we have also noted, we do have a meeting scheduled for Thursday, September 6th which has been properly posted to allow us to consider any substantive counter-proposals submitted to Mr. Rearick by NEA.
Given that it is the School Committee which as been waiting for nearly 3 weeks for a counter-proposal from the NEA, it seems odd to me that the NEA would be calling a strike because of delays in contract talks. We haven’t left the bargaining table but cannot respond to something that is not there. I and I know my fellow School Committee members strongly believe that an illegal Teachers’ strike is not in the best interest of our students, our parents or our taxpayers. Unfortunately, we are not calling this strike and therefore have no control over that decision.

In an email to me, Mr. Burk details subsequent events, including a meeting with the full committee, the absence of which had been an ostensible sticking point from the unions perspective:

This afternoon [Monday] we held another emergency meeting. At the beginning of our Executive Session, we asked the union for this proposal but they would not give it to us. After about an hour of our Executive Session, we came back to the public session and again asked for the union’s proposal. They stated they did not have it with them and it would take them an hour to get it to us. We said we would wait.
They came back in an hour with a proposal that changed very little in salary and, dollar wise, very little in contributing to health care costs. Their salary proposal was for 3.75% each year over 3 years for a total of 11.25%, in addition to step increases. Currently they pay flat rates for health care – $1100 family and $650 individual. They suggested in this latest proposal to raise that to $1150 and $700 in year one; $1250 and $750 in year 2 and $1350 and $800 in year 3. (Our original health care proposal to them asked for a tiered system based on where a teacher is in the salary steps with teachers at the lowest step paying 15% of the health care premium, teachers in the middle steps paying 20% and teachers at the highest steps paying 25%).
While we spent a few hours working through the numbers, we still came up short in being able to identify a counter proposal that would stay within our fiscal constraints but provide teachers with salary increases in the last 2 years of the contract. We asked the union to give us until Thursday to have our fiscal staff work through more details to see if we could find a way address those issues; they instead chose to strike.

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Frank
Frank
14 years ago

Let’s see Justin,
Pat Crowley 1) lied about who wasn’t returning to the bargaining table, blaming the Tiverton school committee when it was the teacher’s union who refused to meet (and, it seems, the union purposely delayed meeting with the SC until the start of the school year, surprise, surprise!!); 2) criticized the school committee for not accepting a union health care proposal while neglecting to mention that the SC had it’s own proposal out on the table which was more favorable to the town; 3) used the media to try to sway public opinion to his side utilizing these lies/misinformation; and 4) expected that the union breach of negotiation confidentiality would not be noticed and continue to be honored by the Tiverton SC.
He certainly seems fit to be a teacher union official, don’t ya think?

John
John
14 years ago

The only thing that’s missing are visits by Senator Moura and Crowley to individual school committee members’ homes…

Will
Will
14 years ago

Frank,
1) The SC extended the expiring three year contract in MAY 2006 announcing at that meeting that they needed a little more time to work out the “final details.” The first proposal they sent to the teachers was in May 2007 – ONE YEAR later, while numerous meetings were canceled during that year by the Super.
SC stated due to “open meeting regs” they couldn’t meet until next Thurs., yet they called an emergency meeting on Monday and in fact discussed the proposals. Who delayed this process??
2)The health proposal offered by the SC is being questioned both from an ethical and legal stand point. Legally, it is quite possibly age discrimination as it penalizes the “older folks” in the system. Chair admitted that they had not researched this proposal. Not quite a favorable alternative…
3)and 4)Both guilty of this. Isn’t that what the SC is also trying to do now both here and in the media? You are just assuming SC version of the “facts” are the correct ones
Things are not always as clear cut as they seem and this SC is not with out fault in this whole mess.

Pat Crowley
Pat Crowley
14 years ago

Glad to see you are falling for the bosses spin guys. They have given your more time and information than the Union. I wonder why? Could it be that you don’t think critically enough?
I can’t wait to bring this document from them before a hearing at the labor board and get them to say the same things under oath.

Pat Crowley
Pat Crowley
14 years ago

And again, even THEIR math said it would save the district $24K in year one, more in years two and three.
Remember the Easter Bunny…..

Tom W
Tom W
14 years ago

>>And again, even THEIR math said it would save the district $24K in year one, more in years two and three.
Yeah, but is that in isolation to other factors that will increase the cost of the contract – thus negating any savings?
There needs to be a comprehensive “fiscal impact statement,” for ultimately the number that is important is: over the life of the contract, how much more on a net basis will the contract in its totality cost the taxpayers than would be the case if the existing contract were in place.
To present the reality, this figure must include projected increases in employer-paid health care and other benefits, and increases in the municipal contribution to the state (i.e., teachers) pension system. These, in addition to salary, are part of the teachers compensation package.
Take that net increased amount, divide by the number of teachers, and then you can calculate the actual extent of their raises.

Justin Katz
14 years ago

Whose bosses? As a Tiverton taxpayer, I was under the impression that the school committee (and the teachers, in turn) theoretically work for me.
As it happens, you and Mr. Walsh have given us “more time,” if discussions count, and probably more information. We just find it flawed and your motives suspect.
Like on healthcare. Since you didn’t provide any details of your specific proposal, I have no way of knowing where your numbers are coming from or what they ultimately represent. I don’t even know whether you’re using the word “save” in reference to the SC’s proposed healthcare plan or the one from the previous contract. (And Tom W’s questions remain relevant.)
As for the rest, Pat, I’m not sure I accept you as an authority on critical thinking.

Will
Will
14 years ago

Here is some of that information given by the SC.
On Aug. 30th in the Newport Herald, Chair deMedeiros is quoting as saying “The health care plan is what we’re really stuck on at this point,” “We haven’t even really gone into salaries that much.” (http://www.newportdailynews.com/articles/2007/08/30/news/news1.txt)
Yet in their stmnt released on Sept 2nd (posted here) they go into great detail about how they have been working on salary proposals.
Which statement do we believe?

Will
Will
14 years ago

More information from the SC on your site.
Michael Burk explained in email SUN to NEA rep:
I am sure you are aware that the Committee could not hold a meeting without providing proper written public notice 48 hours in advance. I believe that Rearick indicated yesterday morning that he would have us post a meeting for Tuesday evening, the earliest we would be able to do so in compliance with the open meetings laws.
THEN Mr. Burk details subsequent events, including a MEETING with the full committee, the very next day:
This afternoon we held another emergency meeting. We spent a few hours working through the numbers, we still came up short in being able to identify a counter proposal that would stay within our fiscal constraints…We asked the union to give us until Thursday to have our fiscal staff work through more details to see if we could find a way address those issues;
So which is it – first they COULDN”T hold a meeting due to open meetings law, but then they could? Yet you don’t find this information flawed or suspect? Hmmm…

Will
Will
14 years ago

Justin,
You have indicated that you have just recently started attending both town council and school committee mettings. I have quickly found that the best way to judge the integrity and reliabilty of Tiverton’s elected officals is to attend these meetings to see the actions, interactions and reactions of the individuals. If you can’t attend all these meetings (and who can) local channel 18, Cox public TV, replays all town council meetings and those they receive from the school committee (unfortunately the SC tapes don’t always seem to make it over the bridge to Portsmouth for replay). And welcome to town politics – always great to have as many residents involved as possible.

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