LENOX — The School Committee and the Lenox Education Association, the union representing employees, have reached a contract settlement for the district's 83 teachers that includes a 5 percent across the board raise over the three-year agreement.
By a vote of 6-1, the committee approved the contract at its Monday night meeting. The union members had ratified it on May 19.
The negotiated salary increase for all teachers is 2.5 percent for fiscal year 2017, 1.5 percent for fiscal 2018 and 1 percent for fiscal 2019, School Committee Chairman Robert Vaughan said.
In addition, most teachers will receive traditional pay increases according to their placement on the school district's salary schedule, which has 18 steps determined generally by length of service and advanced education such as a master's degree plus additional credits.
For teachers who are not at the top rung, their first-year increase, including the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, will total 5.9 percent, with 4.9 percent in the second year and 4.4 percent in the third year.
Teachers who have been at the most experienced category, step 18, for one year will get the negotiated collective-bargaining increases of 2.5, 1.5 and 1 percent year by year, as well as a $750 "experience factor payment" in the second and third year of the contract. Twenty-four faculty members are expected to benefit from those additional payments in year two, and 28 in the final year.
In 2016-17, the first year of the contract, teachers salaries will range from $40,989 to $88,952, rising to a range of $42,020 to $91,189 in 2018-19.
The combination of the contract agreement and the pay increases at various step levels will cause a first-year operating budget impact of $257,072, a second-year impact of $260,926 and a third-year increase of $230,740, subject to adjustment as new teachers are hired, Vaughan noted. The three-year total increase is $748,738.
"I believe the School Committee's adoption of this contract is in sync with stated goals of the district's 2015-20 Strategic Plan," Schools Superintendent Timothy Lee stated in an e-mail on Wednesday. "It recognizes the contributions of teachers, keeps our pay competitive among county peers, and helps us to remain an 'employer of choice.' "
During the Monday meeting, School Committee member Robert Munch also pointed to "the desire to recognize the teachers for the excellent job they've been doing." He mentioned several "good news bits" that have emerged over the past year about the school district "and the environment we've created for students."
"I think we got to a negotiated agreement that will recognize the teachers for a job well done and is a fair agreement," said Munch, representing the Human Resources Subcommittee.
"It's very consistent with what's happened in other districts," Vaughan said.
"It keeps us very competitive with the other districts," Munch agreed, adding that the Lenox teachers contract is in the "mid-tier range, not at the top, not at the bottom."
The state's Education Reform Act allows a town's chief executive officer to participate and to vote as a member of the School Committee in collective bargaining, Superintendent Lee said, "even though this has not been the practice in the past."
Town Manager Christopher Ketchen cast the lone dissenting vote.
"I didn't feel that the overall total increases were in line with what other Lenox public employees will get," he told The Eagle.
The new contract also includes personal sick leave and family illness now combined as medical leave, and more flexibility in cases of a long-term illness involving a teacher's family member.
Teachers will be able to use up to 20 days per year as opposed to five, if they have the time accrued, for family needs.
Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.
By the numbers ...
The new three-year teachers contract negotiated by the Lenox Education Association and the School Committee includes the following:
Across the board increases: 2.5 percent in year one, 1.5 percent in year two, 1 percent in year three
Total increases, including salary schedule steps for most teachers: 5.9 percent in year one, 4.9 percent in year two, 4.4 percent in year three
Total increases for the most experienced teachers at top step 18: 2.5 percent in year one, 1.5 percent in year two, 1 percent in year three, plus $750 "experience factor" payments in years two and three
Teachers salary range: $40,989 - $88.952 (year one); $42,020 - $91,189 (year three).