The Recorder – Erving teachers plead for better pay amid stalled negotiations

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ERVING — After starting the school year without a contract, more than 20 teachers and paraprofessionals argued for better pay at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Led by chief negotiator and sixth grade teacher Mark Burnett, members of the Erving Teachers Association, dressed in black, voiced their positions during the meeting’s public comment period. The plea came after staff and the school committee “couldn’t quite come to an agreement on various points on both sides” after protracted negotiations from January to May, Burnett said.

The current stalemate, he summarized, is primarily about the lack of a 2% or greater pay increase, falling below the norm for city employees and the reasonable expectation of compensating a increase in the cost of living.

“During this period, not only have we faced the challenges of a global health pandemic, but we have seen relentless and historic inflation rising by 9%,” Burnett said during a speech before the committee. “Despite our best efforts, we were unable to settle a contract with an increased cost of living that reflects the value that Erving Elementary School educators bring to our district, and our contract has expired June 30, 2022.”

School board chair Jennifer Eichorn said in a written statement Wednesday that she could not comment on ongoing negotiations.

“We cannot discuss the details of the negotiations as this remains confidential until we settle down,” Eichorn wrote. “We plan to negotiate in good faith with the Erving Teachers Association to provide a fair contract for Unit A. We deeply appreciate the talent and dedication of our teachers at Erving Elementary School.”

Before appearing before the school committee, Burnett said committee members from the district and beyond “could be more aware of the difficulty of the job”, citing the physical and mental impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic as the main causes. of difficulties. Especially given these circumstances, Burnett argued that there “should be some parity for everyone” when considering how some city employees have seen substantial pay increases this budget cycle.

“You may not be aware that three city positions – city treasurer, fire chief and city administrator – received pay increases of 16%, 20% and 25% this year” , Burnett said during his speech. “Do we think it’s wrong? No. They work hard, they deepen their knowledge in their profession through advanced courses and devote more hours to do their job well. But, you know who else does all those things too? The people in this room.

Selection committee chairman Jacob Smith said it’s “misleading” to view these numbers as direct salary increases. He explained that for the positions of city administrator and fire chief, the drastic change is the result of the planned budget for fiscal year 2022 compared to what was budgeted for fiscal year 2023. In reality, he said, the FY23 budget was projected based on what was actually spent in FY22, a figure significantly higher than previously projected. The increase between what was actually spent in FY22 and what the city plans to spend in FY23 is about 2%, according to Smith.

The budget also reflects an increase in the Treasurer’s office hours from 25 hours per week to 30 hours per week, as well as a 2% adjustment to base salaries. Additional changes include a $500 increase in Treasurer expenses and an account created for $800 in Ameriflex fees.

“All three positions received the same percentage increase in their pay rate from FY22 to FY23 as other employees,” Smith summarized.

Burnett noted that he and his colleagues also wanted the addition of a salary track for teachers who have taken advanced postgraduate courses, as they have put “a lot of work…in taking these top courses and reaching the level next”.

“In addition to a realistic salary increase, we are being denied a salary track for those of us who have reached 60 graduate credits,” Burnett said in his speech. “It’s the equivalent of a doctorate or a double master’s degree. Our request was refused by your commission because it was deemed too expensive.

Burnett said defenders “strongly disagree” that a less than 2% pay raise is fair, especially considering Erving “is sitting on just under $10 million. into a savings account, according to its proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2023.” Erving’s operating budget shows approximately $9.3 million in its general stabilization fund.

“I hope each of you finds your voice to say, ‘Enough is enough. It’s time for a contract that shows we value our schools and our staff,’ he told the school committee.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or [email protected] Chris Larabee contributed reporting for this story.

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