ConVal superintendent weighs in on teacher contract, layoffs

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/23/2018 5:52:03 PM

An article published in the Ledger-Transcript last Tuesday reported that a miscalculation regarding the implementation of a third-party fact finder’s report resulted in nine layoffs in the ConVal School District. Superintendent Kimberly Saunders said it was actually a difference in legal interpretations that led to those cuts. 

The agreement covers raises for teachers, special service providers, and paraprofessionals in the district for the 2018-19 school year.

In an email clarifying the news report published last week, Saunders said the $1.68 million figure for employee raises that was on the warrant article was based on the board’s interpretation of the fact finder’s recommendation. The union had a different interpretation of how the report should be implemented, which came with a higher price tag.

She said the dispute related “to the placement of current employees on the hiring salary matrix.” 

Saunders said in an email that the union was informed of the board’s methodology and an estimate of how much it would cost in early January 2018. Saunders said that the union was provided with the actual worksheets, which were used to calculate the salary adjustments, at the beginning of February. She said a union representative objected to the methodology in a phone conversation at one point, but never formally did so.

Saunders said the union did not raise the issue during the deliberative session when the warrant article regarding the fact finder’s report was discussed. She said, “only after the voters approved the article and the parties began discussing the implementation of the recommendations did it become apparent that the union was not going to accept the board’s methodology.”

ConVal Education Association Co-President Greg Leonard said on Monday afternoon that the union was working with the district’s administration and the school board to issue a joint statement on the matter but that the document wouldn’t be complete until after the Ledger-Transcript’s deadline on Monday. 

The $1.68 million figure that was slated to cover the board’s interpretation of implementing the fact finder’s report went on the ballot in March, and voters approved it. Once that sum was voted in by taxpayers, it couldn’t be altered. 

Because the parties could not resolve the dispute, they agreed to seek the fact finder’s assistance. Ultimately, Saunders said, the fact finder sided with the union.

Saunders said the board agreed to the fact finder’s decision in a move to avoid costly litigation.

After agreeing to the union’s interpretation, Saunders said school officials spent the next 12 days, including weekends, adjusting every employees’ placement on a hiring salary matrix.

Saunders said the parties then met and agreed to several other adjustments that brought the total cost of the contract to the $1.68 million sum that was approved by voters.

In a press release, Saunders said that the proposal represents a major investment and creates one of the most competitive pay structures among the local school districts by providing pay raises for teachers, special service professionals, and paraprofessionals. 

And while many received generous raises, some had to be laid off and other positions had to be eliminated through attrition. Some of the positions that were eliminated through attrition came as a result of declining student enrollment and the need to proactively control costs, Saunders said.

“Both the superintendent and the board have expressed their appreciation for the voters’ support for the teachers, special service providers, and paraprofessionals and hope that the resolution of this contract will position the district  to move forward and accomplish its mission of educating all children who attend the ConVal schools,” Saunders said in an email to the Ledger-Transcript after the article was published last Tuesday.

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