AB School Committee approves new teacher's contract through FY2017

Acton Forum clarifies prior article on CY13 compensation increases.

The Acton-Boxborough Regional School Committee released the new Acton-Boxborough Education Association (ABEA) contract at its May 22, 2014 meeting and after about 30 minutes of discussion, approved it through fiscal year 2017. The agreement had been ratified by the teacher's union that afternoon.

The vote was unanimous but was done several times because the agreement covered four years (state law allows for three in a single agreement) and involved the various local school committees that will be dissolved when the school committee fully regionalizes on July 1st. The votes were unanimous. Town Manager Steve Ledoux, who by law is a member of the School Committee for purposes of approving union contracts, was on vacation and did not send a representative in his stead.

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SALARY AND COLA INCREASES

Cost of living increases will average 1% per year over the four years, from FY14-FY17, with a 1/2% bonus in the first year (this year, FY14) which is not being added to the base salary. The first year will not see a permanent COLA increase, there will be a 1% increase in years two through four, and an additional 1% at the top step in years three and four, which the documentation said averages out to another 1% overall.

"Steps," which we assume includes "lanes," and Supermax, plus COLA increases will yield a total increase of 2.77% in FY14, 3.31% in FY15, 3.47% in FY16, and 3.39% in FY17, according to the documentation provided at the meeting (see chart attached to this article.) This reflects a "group of teachers" moving through the system and will not equal "budget line" increases which are influenced by other factors like retirements.

One additional day for professional development is being added to the school year at an annual cost to taxpayers of $110,000 starting in FY15.

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL SCHEDULE CHANGES

Acton elementary schools have long had early-release Thursdays, while Boxborough schools have only had early release one day per month. Starting next year, half of the Thursdays will be early release and half will be full school days. The school day is being shortened by 5 minutes per day, but the net result will be increased instructional time for Acton Public School students. Teachers will also be given increased planning time, from three to four periods per week.

The total budgetary impact of the increases will be $740,000 in FY14, $1.05 million in FY15, $1.24 million in FY16, and $1.15 million in FY17. The assessments approved by the two Town Meetings will be adequate to cover the increases this year and next.

VOTE DELAY REQUESTED BY NITSCHELM

The author submitted a letter and spoke at the meeting urging the School Committee to delay the vote for public input and comment, in order to increase transparency of the process. Chairperson Maria Neyland stated that Nitschelm had had two full years to submit comments on the agreement and she reminded him that they had an identical conversation a year earlier at which time she urged him to submit comments.

Nitschelm asked how comments could be submitted when the agreement was not publicly released until that evening, and he again urged the Committee to delay the vote to allow for additional public comment.

School Committee member Michael Coppolino said that the School Committee had gotten a legal opinion that strongly suggested that the School Committee not release the agreement in advance. He said that the legal opinion indicated that it could be deemed as "bargaining in bad faith" and that releasing an agreement and not being able to take into consideration public input would just be for show, so there was no sense in doing that.

There were no comments from any other members of the public and then the School Committee approved the agreements.

[For an update on how this process violated the SC's agreement for more transparency, see http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/ab-school-committee-violates-poli...

ACTON FORUM CLARIFIES PRIOR ARTICLE ON 9.6% INCREASES FROM FY13 TO CY13 COMPENSATION

In a recent Acton Forum article (see http://www.actonforum.com/blogs/allenn/top-teachers-got-9-average-bonus-...), we compared scheduled salaries for all full-time teaching staff in Fiscal Year 2013 (July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013) to actual monies received during the calendar year 2013 (January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2013). We noted that while one would expect increases due to raises on July 1st from one fiscal year to the next, the increases we were seeing were well beyond those raises. We then speculated on some of the causes for these increases. Our speculation has been corrected by school administrators.

We calculated that the gross wages for the top 75 teachers averaged 9.6% higher in the CY13 list than the FY13 list, with the average increase for all teachers at about 5%. We speculated that perhaps this increase was largely due to the "longevity incentive," a new bonus program for long-serving teachers that replaced the "early retirement incentive" bonus plan.

Marie Altieri, Director of Personnel, explained that many of the high school teachers who have been employed the longest are department leaders, long-time coaches, and teach summer school, sometimes several courses. This explains most of the difference between the two compensation figures.

The longevity bonuses that we suspected contributed to the higher gross wages were already included in the salary figures, according to Altieri.

Longevity bonuses range "from $1,300 (for 10 years of service) to $2,700 (for 25 or more years of service)," she said. These annual bonuses are meant to replace the "early retirement incentive" bonus plans that paid teachers $40,000 - $50,000 if they retired early. The ERI plans are being phased out and teachers who get longevity bonuses will have those amounts deducted from any remaining ERI bonuses due to them when they retire.

We speculated that large bonuses would lead to much larger retirement packages. But if the longevity bonuses max out at $2,700 per year, then the annual retirement payment would be about $2,000 per year from this program.

Altieri said that teachers got the extra pay for duties outside of their normal activities. "For example, there is a teacher whom you list as receiving a 33% longevity bonus. That teacher, in fact, is coaching 3 sports and teaching several sections of summer school," she said.

Altieri also said that summer pay was not included in calculating retirement benefits. Only items in the union contract or that are approved by the state go into the retirement benefit calculation, she said.

Acton Forum did not mean to imply that all monies paid above FY13 salaries were longevity bonuses, and we did overstate the impact of those bonuses, assuming that they were not already part of scheduled salaries. We regret the errors and thank the schools for making the correction to the record.

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