Teachers OK new contract; three-year deal kicks in Friday

BAR HARBOR — Teachers in the Mount Desert Island Regional School System (MDIRSS) will receive a pay increase of more than 14 percent over the next three years under the new contract they approved in votes Monday and Tuesday.

The school committees for the four MDI towns and Trenton, plus MDI High School, approved the contract last week.

In the first year of the three-year contract, which goes into effect Sept. 1, teachers will receive an increase of 3.56 percent over the 2017-2018 salary scale.

Teachers will receive a 6.81 percent pay increase in the second year of their new contract and a 3.87 percent raise in the third year.

In June, the MDIRSS board approved 3.22 percent pay raise for the coming year for all support staff – from ed techs to secretaries to custodians – and for all of the school principals and central office administrators.

At the bottom of the pay scale, a brand new teacher with a bachelor’s degree made $36,236 this past year. Under the new contract, a teacher at that level will make $38,500 in the coming year, an increase of $2,264. That base salary will rise to $41,000 in the second year of the contract and to $42,500 in the third year.

At the upper end of the salary scale, a teacher with 25 years of experience and two master’s degrees or a doctorate made $64,109 this past year. That will rise to $66,616 in the coming year, to $68,200 in the second year of the contract and to $69,700 in the third year.

Teachers’ salaries and their share of health insurance costs were the major sticking points in the 11 months of negotiations between representatives of the six school committees and six teachers’ associations.

Under the new contract, the schools will continue to pay 82 percent of the premiums for teachers and enrolled family members in the Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield Choice Plus plan for the coming school year.

Starting next year, teachers will be switched to Anthem’s “Standard 1000” plan, which will raise the deductible that employees pay for individual coverage from $200 to $1,000. However, the schools will set up a health reimbursement account that will cover up to $800 of the deductible for teachers with employee-only coverage and up to $1,600 a year for those with plans that cover other family members.

Throughout the collective bargaining negotiations, teachers have said they wanted a “fair and competitive contract.”

Asked Wednesday if they got it, Geoff Wood, the lead spokesman for the teachers’ associations said, “It is certainly a movement in that direction. We feel this gets us a lot closer to where we once were in relation to what we consider our peer schools, other high-performing schools with strong economic factors in their communities.”

Wood, a teacher at Tremont Consolidated School, said he and the other teachers are happy a contract agreement has finally been reached.

“But we certainly still have work to do to make sure the future of the schools is secure,” he said.

Heather Jones, chairman of the MDIRSS board, said Wednesday, “I am extremely thrilled that we have been able to come to a resolution.”

She said that, in the negotiating sessions and in conversations with individual teachers from the various schools, she and other board members heard concerns about how well the teachers are compensated in relation to their peers in comparable school districts in the state.

“We will undertake an analysis and review of that and a determination of who our comparable (districts) are and where we all would like to be,” Jones said. “That project will be a collaboration between teachers and school board members.”

She said she expects that analysis to begin next spring.

Jones said she also has heard teachers express the desire for more recognition for what they do.

“Recognition could come in a whole variety of formats. It could be simple praise, it could be education, it could be support,” she said. “I have tasked myself and [the school committees] and teachers to work on those relationships, for all of us to listen and grow from there.”

The switch to a different health insurance plan in the second year of the teachers’ contract will mean both the employees and the schools will pay less in premiums. And although the deductible will be going up, that increase will be covered by the school system’s new health reimbursement account.

“That’s the part that’s very new and a little bit scary to people because we don’t know how it will end up working,” Wood said.

The school system will have to fully fund the health reimbursement account for the second year of the contract, which will be the first year of the “Standard 1000” plan, but any money that isn’t spent can be rolled over to the following year. School officials expect that will save the schools money in the long run because not everyone with insurance coverage reaches their deductible.


Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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