Wilton-Lyndeborough voters approve teachers’ contract, funds for full-time counselor

  • Moderator Walter Holland looks on as Deb Mortvedt of Wilton casts her vote on the budget.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Fran Bujak of Lyndeborough speaks in favor of the teacher’s contract during the Wilton-Lyndeborough district meeting. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Voters at the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative District Meeting approved all articles, including a $40,000 increase to the budget for a full-time middle-school counselor. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/8/2021 4:38:32 PM

Voters passed both the proposed budget – with a $40,000 increase to restore a full-time counselor position at the middle school – and the new teachers’ contract during the Wilton-Lyndeborough District Meeting on Saturday.

About 70 residents attended the meeting in person, with more listening to the proceedings online who were offered the opportunity to give input, but could not vote. Chairs were set up in both the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative Middle/High School cafeteria and gymnasium, rooms which are connected by a central stage where members of the School Board and Budget Committee gave presentations on articles.

After several technical delays, the meeting began with a presentation of the budget, which included about a 6 cent decrease for Wilton and a 7 cent decrease for Lyndeborough. There was much discussion, however, after an amendment was offered to increase the budget by $40,000 for a full-time counselor for the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative Middle School.

The amendment was offered by Darlene Anzalone, a write-in candidate for Budget Committee, several members of the current School Board and Budget Committee spoke in favor of the measure.

Alex Loverme, chair of the School Board, explained to the public that the middle school counselor is currently part-time, a cut to the position which was made last year as a cost saving measure. However, he said, he was in support of restoring the position.

“We have had eight to 10 middle school students talk about threatening to kill themselves. That’s eight to 10 too many,” Loverme said.

“It was a full-time position last year. I believe strongly it should be a full-time position,” said School Board member Carol Leblanc.

Members of the community also spoke in favor.

Dan Nelson, a Wilton resident and WLC soccer coach, said with the current concerns of COVID-19 causing additional pressures, students need access to counselors more than ever before.

Christine Keller of Wilton said she has two children, and that “middle school was the hardest time in their lives and our lives as a family.” She said the middle school years are a transition from child to young adult, and students need support, and called the position “imperative.”

School Board member Charlie Post said he wasn’t against reinstating the counselor to full-time, but suggested the school use COVID-19 relief funds available through the state this year, rather than add funding to the budget. However, the majority of the attending voters wanted to ensure the funds were available, and by strong voice vote, added the $40,000 to the budget. The budget was then passed with little other discussion, in a ballot vote.

The district also held a secret ballot for Article 5, the collective bargaining agreement between the School Board and the Teachers’ Association. The article, which is a three-year contract for teacher and staff raises, was not recommended by the School Board or the Budget Committee.

The contract allows $117,914 in the coming year, $150,755 in 2022 and $157,748 in 2023.

Loverme said the district bargained in “good faith” but the two sides could not come to an agreement, and the negotiations were sent to a fact finder for mediation, and the numbers presented to the public are based on that report. Loverme said the changes to the pay scale were based on several geographically close districts, but said there was “no comparison” between Wilton-Lyndeborough and larger districts like ConVal or Milford.

Loverme also said the proposed salary increases submitted by the teachers’ association to the fact finder were not the numbers presented to the School Board for negotiation, and said there had not been an opportunity for the board to discuss them.

If the contract were not passed, there would have been a salary freeze, and negotiations would pick back up for a contract to put before voters next year.

Fran Bujak of Lyndeborough pointed out while the School Board had much to say about the process, they had not spoken much about the end result. When broken down over three years, Bujak said, the district’s proposal was only slightly lower than the numbers presented by the fact finder.

“This is just a sad day for a district whose teachers have come in every day during a pandemic,” Bujak said.

The contract was passed in a 47-23 ballot vote.

The voters also passed, in a voice vote, and after no discussion, a two-year collective bargaining agreement between the School Board and the Support Staff Association. The contract provides increases of $24,148 for 2021 and $19,546 for 2022.

Voters also gave approval to additions to the school’s capital reserve funds, including $95,000 for the equipment and roadway fund, and $50,000 for the special education contingency fund.


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