To the Editor:
MDI teachers are currently working without a contract. In the coming weeks, residents can expect to see campaigning events supporting a contract for our teachers.
Since December of 2020, MDI teacher negotiators have been meeting with AOS board members to negotiate a contract for the beginning of the current school year. In February, two negotiating school board members and the superintendent presented a proposal for a one-year contract, citing the uncertain economy of our communities due to the pandemic, despite evidence of continued economic prosperity on our island.
MDI teachers’ previous three-year contract had been identified as a “bridge contract” in bringing our school district into parity with “similarly-situated schools” who have comparable tax valuations and school demographics but are paying their teachers more. MDI teachers would like to be paid enough to live in the communities in which they teach, and the last contract only began to bridge this disparity. Beginning teacher salaries have increased, but teachers who have been teaching here for longer amounts of time continue to see a large discrepancy in compensation when compared with other comparable school districts.
The Feb. 26 proposal from the board was for a one-year contract. This proposal provided raises for teachers, but not enough to cover the current cost of living increase and did not bring us closer to the salaries of teachers in these similarly situated schools. The school board’s proposal also did not include any change in health insurance coverage for teachers, which falls significantly short of other school districts in the state.
Teacher negotiators have been working tirelessly researching, creating proposals and counter-proposals, and meeting with school board members to negotiate. Proposals given by the teacher negotiation team have minimal tax implications and bring our school district closer to salaries of teachers in similarly situated schools. The school board negotiators have offered only two additional comprehensive proposals since their original one-year proposal, with minimal movement in salary and language changes to the contract and no movement in health insurance. In July, after only one three-year proposal, the school board filed mediation paperwork. Following mediation with no resolved agreement for the new contract cycle, the teacher negotiation team has continued to make themselves available for bargaining with the school board.
A fact-finding hearing has occurred, and the results can be released to the public 30 days after the report from the fact-finding panel is completed. On Oct. 27, teacher negotiators and school board representatives were able to tentatively agree on some contract language changes. The teacher negotiation team continues to reach out to the school board in hopes of reaching a mutual agreement.
MDI teachers cannot afford to live on our island with their current salaries; they are paid less than teachers from communities in our state that have lower tax valuations and lower costs of living. This is a stark comparison to a decade ago, when our island attracted and retained teachers with high compensation packages.
Our teachers are currently working, during a pandemic, in some of the most challenging conditions in the history of education, without a contract. Mount Desert Island is one of the few places in our state and our country that has been able to offer in-person instruction to our students throughout the pandemic because of the dedication and efforts of these teachers. Please show your support for a teacher contract by reaching out to your local school board representatives, attending school board meetings, writing to your newspaper editor, talking to your neighbors to spread information, wearing red on Fridays to support #redfored, and joining the Mount Desert Island Education Association Facebook page, where you can sign up to have a sign for your yard to show support.
Mount Desert Island Education Association Negotiation Team