BAR HARBOR — Contract negotiations between a committee of the Mount Desert Island Regional School System (MDIRSS) board and representatives of the teachers union have gone on longer than either side had hoped, but that doesn’t mean they are going badly, Superintendent Marc Gousse said last Friday.
Collective bargaining for a new three-year contract began last September.
“My observation is that both sides have been incredibly respectful, and the tone has been very civil and collaborative,” Gousse said. “Each side has some things that are important to them. With any collective bargaining process, it’s trying to find ways to come together in the middle, and we’re working to do that.”
Gousse said the negotiating teams for both the school board and teachers union have agreed not to issue statements or to speak publicly about the negotiations.
He said that, as superintendent, he plays a dual role when it comes to teacher contracts.
“I’m an agent of the board, but I also need to be an advocate for our teachers and staff,” he said. “I think it is very important that we negotiate a fair and respectful offer with our teachers. It behooves [everyone] to have a collective bargaining agreement in place that honors our existing staff, retains great people and also is a vehicle to attract new staff.
“At the same time, we have a responsibility to our communities to make sure we are fiscally responsible with our resources,” Gousse said. “The goal is to balance that.”
Noting that this week is National Teacher Appreciation Week, Gousse said, “I very much appreciate the work that all of our staffs do. But, I’m also conscious of the fact that they would probably feel much more appreciated if the collective bargaining vehicle was in place.
“We’re all committed to getting this done as quickly as possible.”
The current teachers’ contract expires at the end of August. If no agreement on a new contract is reached by then, the terms of the old contract will remain in effect until a new one is signed.