WILMINGTON -- Superintendent Richard McClements says whenever contracts are one semester overdue, it's always a difficult time.
"It's difficult for the staff," he continued. "Many are angry and frustrated. They don't understand why they haven't received the increases. They want to feel valued and appreciated."
This will be the first time in 20 years that teachers from the Twin Valley School District have been working without a contract. They are currently working under last year's contract, which means that the teachers remain on the same salaried schedule.
"We should have agreed upon a new contract and we haven't come to terms yet," said Amy Swanson, a member of the organizing committee for the district's union, who has been teaching in the district for 16 years.
For the 2011/2012 school year, teachers agreed with the board to take a pay freeze in the first year of a two year contract. It was agreed upon by both sides. But now a pay freeze has been imposed again for this school year.
So far, negotiations between the Contract Negotiations Committee and the School Board have failed.
"There have been years where we haven't had a contract to start the year but it's been in the process," said Chris Walling, another member of the organizing committee. "This is certainly the first year coming into September, we were nowhere near an agreement on either side."
Walling has been a teacher in the district for 21 years. He told the Reformer that union members are growing impatient with the process as they have been working for four months without a contract
From the Twin Valley School Board perspective, there is a substantial deficit that stems from having fewer enrolled students than expected., McClements said.
At a meeting last week, the board was given an analysis of the financial situation. Approximately 30 teachers attended.
"Our revenue is going to be roughly $300,000 short," said McClements. "And that's mostly tuition related. The expenditures showed that we have an encumbered balance of $280,000 ... Of that amount, of the money that's not committed or spent, we estimate we'll spend at least half of it."
That would leave approximately $150,000 as a surplus of funds.
On Dec. 19, there will be a fact finding meeting at the Windham Southwest Supervisory Central Office, which the bargaining groups will attend. McClements told the Reformer that it is hard to say whether an agreement will be reached then.
"We know that just giving the teachers one step is worth about 2.3 percent and we budgeted for the increase of 1 percent," he said. "So there's a difference there."
Chairman of the Contract Negotiations Committee Dwight Williams, a non-voting member of the Twin Valley School Board, said the board was cautiously optimistic and hopeful that an agreement could be reached. He said the primary issue for reaching terms has been the salary increases and a term of a contract.
"The board is unable to offer a contract beyond two years due to the lack of fiscal clarity," added Williams.
One of the points that Williams mentioned was the consolidation that has been under way for Twin Valley schools to include students from Whitingham and Wilmington. He said it's been known since the consolidation process began that it would take a minimum of three years "working in a consolidation state to establish a fiscal baseline to accurately measure the financial results of the consolidation."
"For that reason, we advocated for a shorter contract with our teaching staff and they have desired a longer contract," said Williams. "We simply cannot reach terms on a longer contract without this financial knowledge of the post consolidation budget."
He concluded that the board's intention is to offer teachers pay increases that are fair, and he said the fact finding meeting will give a forecast.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.