BAR HARBOR — The cloud that has been threatening to cast a dark shadow over the start of school next week appears to be lifting.
Representatives of the Mount Desert Island Regional School System board and the teachers’ union, who have been negotiating a new employment contract since September, reached a tentative agreement last week.
On Wednesday, the school committees of the four MDI towns and Trenton, as well as the MDI High School committee, voted to ratify the agreement.
Meeting simultaneously in the library at the high school, each of the committees took less than two minutes to vote on the contract, and each of the votes was unanimous.
Now, a majority of teachers at the high school and at each of the five elementary schools must vote to approve the contract in order for it to go into effect. Those votes are expected to take place early next week.
Superintendent Marc Gousse said the terms of a new contract would not be made public until it has been approved by both the school committees and the teachers.
The current three-year teacher contract expires next Friday, Aug. 31, which the day after students go back to school. If a new contract isn’t in place by then, the current contract will remain in effect. Then, once a new contract is signed, it likely will be retroactive to Sept. 1.
The teachers have been pressing for higher salaries and lower health insurance costs. A rally in Bar Harbor’s Village Green was held July 22, organized by parents and teachers, in support of “fair and competitive” teacher compensation. Organizers cited “declining compensation relative to other top-performing schools” in the state.
Members of the school system board, which is made up of members of the individual towns’ school committees, have said they want to do the best they can for the teachers while not overburdening taxpayers.
“I think it is very important that we negotiate a fair and respectful offer with our teachers,” Gousse told the Islander in May. “It behooves [everyone] to have a collective bargaining agreement 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. The goal is to balance that.”