BELLOWS FALLS -- Though teachers and paraprofessionals of the Windham Northeast Education Association will still get their first paychecks later this month, failure to sign a labor agreement by the deadline means something will be missing.
The pay raises tentatively agreed upon about four months ago during deliberations with the Windham Northeast Supervisory Union School Board's Negotiating Committee will not be included because the educators are now requesting some edits to the deal.
The agreement had to be signed by Monday, Aug. 6, in order for the first paychecks to include the raises. But Stephen L. Fine, chairman of the negotiating committee, said the educators have waited since May to make their request and did not give school boards enough notice.
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 as well as language pertaining to professional development and time allotted for filing a grievance.
"Frankly, I find it outrageous, both that the union sat on the document for so long, saying nothing, and that it now comes forward, at virtually the very last minute, looking for changes in its bargained position," Fine wrote in an e-mail to the Reformer last month.
Fine said on Friday the teachers' union asked to meet informally with Kibbe to discuss
Erica Moody, co-president of the WNEA, was on vacation Friday but said Bartlett was handling the contract negotiations in her absence. She said the educators' negotiating team met Monday and submitted its desired revisions to Kibbe.
Darren Allen, the communications director for Vermont NEA, did not return a phone call seeking comment by deadline on Friday.
This latest development continues the saga between teachers' union and the negotiating committee. The two sides remained deadlocked in contract negotiations for more than a year, with arbitration being the main issue.
The educators have always insisted arbitration, which is a part of every teacher contract in Vermont, is the cheapest way to settle a dispute in a fair and impartial manner. But Fine, an attorney, disagrees. He said arbitration is actually more costly than going before a judge because lawyers and arbitrators must 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.