BELLOWS FALLS -- The two sides of a drawn-out saga hope to put the whole matter to bed with a meeting scheduled for Thursday.
Members of the Windham Northeast Supervisory Union School Boards' Negotiating Committee and the Windham Northeast Education Association are slated to convene at the WNESU's office at 5 p.m. The meeting is open to the public.
Stephen L. Fine, the chairman of the negotiating committee, wants the disagreeing parties to hash out their differences before the school year begins.
He said he hopes the teachers' union brings up any concerns it has and agrees to sign a document that guarantees the supervisory union 90 days to change its business computers to be able to calculate and put into place the new wage increases agreed upon during deliberations roughly four months ago.
"The union has already dragged its feet," Fine said.
The tentative agreement had to be signed by Monday, Aug. 6, in order for the first paychecks to include the raises, but the educators then requested some edits to the deal.
According to an e-mail sent from Vermont National Education Association field representative Norman Bartlett to School Superintendent Chris Kibbe in June, desired adjustments include changes to general overall wording in addition to language pertaining to professional development and time allotted for filing grievances.
Fine said the teachers waited since May to make their request and did not give
Bennington educators filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Vermont Labor Relations Board, Fine said, because they wanted their paychecks to immediately include the agreed-upon wage increases. Fine said the Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union needed more time to "rejigger" its computers to calculate the raises.
Kibbe, who plans to attend the meeting, said the discussion will involve wording that has to do with drafting the final document to be signed by both sides.
Bartlett did not return a phone call seeking comment on Tuesday.
The meeting has the potential to be the final chapter of an on-going saga between the teachers' union and the negotiating committee.
With the main issue being arbitration, the two parties remained deadlocked in contract negotiations for more than a year.
The educators always insisted arbitration, which is a part of every teacher contract in Vermont, is the cheapest and fairest way to settle a labor dispute. But Fine, an attorney by trade, disagreed. He said arbitration is actually more expensive than going before a judge because lawyers and arbitrators have to be paid.
The area's teachers and paraprofessionals voted overwhelmingly at a meeting in late March to strike if no deal was reached the following week. The two parties then came to tentative terms on a new multi-year contract and a work stoppage was averted.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.