BAR HARBOR — Representatives of the Mount Desert Island Regional School System (MDIRSS) board and the teachers’ union met Monday with a professional mediator to try to break an impasse in contract negotiations that began last September.
Following Monday’s meeting, the MDIRSS board scheduled an executive session for this coming Monday, July 16, to discuss the negotiations.
Over the past few weeks, the teachers have become more visible and vocal in trying to generate public support for their effort to achieve what they are calling a “fair and competitive contract.”
Several dozen teachers marched in the Fourth of July parade in Bar Harbor, some of them carrying signs reading “Fair contracts attract and retain great teachers” and “We teach here. Pay us enough to live here.”
On Tuesday, the Maine Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union, launched an online petition drive on the Action Network website seeking support for the MDIRSS teachers. Action Network describes itself as “an open platform that empowers individuals and groups to organize for progressive causes.”
The petition in support of teachers, which is addressed to the MDIRSS bargaining panel, states that the school district is facing a crisis.
“It is getting harder to replace retirees and other teachers who leave the profession because dramatically fewer people apply for open positions now than ten years ago,” the petition reads. “The decline in applicants is partly because the compensation package (salary and benefits) is not attractive enough to offset the high cost of living here in MDI.
“If we do not improve the compensation package for our teachers, the quality of the teachers we will hire and, subsequently, the quality of the education we provide our students will inevitably decline.
“Please settle a contract now that will keep our schools strong in the future.”
The teachers’ current three-year contract expires Aug. 31. If a new contract is not agreed upon by then, the terms of the current contract will remain in effect until a new one is signed.