Board, MESA declare contract settlement

Milton School Board and Milton Education Support Association settled on a two-year contract agreement that allows a 3 percent salary increase in both 2017-18 and 2018-19.

“We have signed a contract with MESA faculty which exemplifies the spirit of collaboration and unity for our district and community,” school board chairwoman Lori Donna said in a press release Monday. “The current two-year agreement is the beginning of restructuring to address our modern student needs and fiscal responsibility.”

Milton Town School District faculty members will pay 18 percent of health care premiums this year, followed by 20 percent in 2018-19. The contract suggests faculty enroll in the Gold CDHP healthcare plan, and says the two entities will share out-of-pocket costs. The district offered a $5,000 reimbursement for family plans, of which faculty will pay the first $800.

Under the 2016-17 agreement —to which employees are beholden until the official new contract is signed this week — faculty pays 15 percent of premiums.

The increase falls in line with the legislature’s statewide initiative to save millions in school employee health care plans. In August, the Vt. Agency of Education released projections saying MTSD must save $136,853 in its two-year health care recapture.

MESA lead negotiator Sara Meigs said school trustees are expected to sign the contract late this week, but Donna could not provide an exact date or time. Once signed, the contract will be available for distribution. The goal, Meigs said, is to disperse it to teachers before Thanksgiving break.

MESA ratified its end of the agreement on October 13, and trustees did so three days after.

A month later, the two parties declared a settlement. Meigs said a discrepancy in the pay grid caused the delay. In her initial data, the number of part- and full-time employees was incorrect. Once receiving official numbers from the school finance department, she said the grid was fixed.

The salary increase, or 3 percent “new money” remained the same, meaning there was no need to ratify the edits in public session, Meigs and Donna later explained.

The only remaining edit is to change some singular language to plural, since the agreement is for two years, Meigs said. Once completed by the board’s attorney, Donna said she will officially sign it on behalf of the board.

Trustees also tentatively ratified support staff and administrator contract agreements at their Oct. 30 meeting, official board minutes show. 

Though negotiations were longer than expected, Meigs said this year’s go-around was more collaborative.

“There was definitely more cooperation and a shared goal and a shared vision, which I haven’t seen before,” Meigs said. “It was a pleasure working with the board on this agreement.”

TOP: The Milton School Board is pictured at a meeting late last month. ABOVE: Milton Education and Support Association lead negotiator Sara Meigs is pictured in her classroom last month. (Photos by Kaylee Sullivan)

One of the contract’s most significant attributes, the joint press release states, is a change to teachers’ workdays. Elementary school faculty will gain non-instructional duties, such as cafeteria supervision, study halls and bus arrival or dismissal duty.

Currently, all middle and high school teachers have this responsibility. Under the new contract, middle school teachers are also “afforded the ability to teach one more class each day,” the press release states.

Meigs said the school board proposed this extra class, but MMS teachers were in favor. Though the provision isn’t a requirement, this contract allows them to hold a “content” or “intervention” block. Kids who struggle in a certain subject will therefore have extra-allotted time to work closely with their classroom teachers.

Yet the most notable addition to the newly ratified contract is the formation of a joint study committee “to research current and shifting student needs and how the teaching day can be altered to better meet those needs,” the release says.

At least one school board member plus an administrator and teacher from every “grade strand” will sit on the committee. The group plans to meet before November’s end.

Both parties pushed for the collaboration to make Milton a school of choice and a leader within Chittenden County.

The two entities recognized negotiations can often be a strained environment, but they are dedicated to curating “a more cooperative future.” Unlike nearby South Burlington and Burlington school districts, neither Milton party explored the idea of striking or imposing a contract, the release also states. 

“I genuinely believe this is exactly what our district needs to foster collaboration and trust among all stakeholders in the faculty and school leadership,” Meigs said. “Let these announcements be another step in the direction of mutual cooperation and respect between the teachers in our district and those who guide us to do our important work.”

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