Waterford Republicans, Democrats squabble over school administrators’ union contract
Waterford — The decision by 10 Republican members of the Representative Town Meeting to abstain from voting on a new school administrators' contract has put them at odds with their Democratic counterparts.
During the RTM’s Jan. 4 meeting members voted 7-2 to approve the one-year contract, with 10 abstentions from Republicans. Two of the abstentions were from members who said they have conflicts of interest with the school district. But the other eight were unexplained.
The Democratic Town Committee sent a news release to The Day last week decrying the abstentions.
“Although it is their duty and responsibility to study the issues at hand and to vote in a way that represents what they feel is in the best interest of their constituents ... Republican members of the RTM chose to abstain from the vote without explanation,” Democratic Town Committee chair Cathy Barnard said. “The question remains whether or not the abstentions were due to conflict of interest issues, to make a political point or because the RTM members did not want to deal with the consequences of actually making a decision.”
The Democratic Town Committee urged constituents to reach out to their RTM members.
“The members of the RTM are charged with the task of voting for what they believe is best for the town,” Barnard said. “To make the tough decisions even if they are not the popular ones. To put the interests of the town over partisan concerns. In the interest of transparency, the Waterford Democratic Town Committee suggests that the citizens of Waterford contact their RTM members and inquire how they voted on this issue and if they abstained, why.”
Republican RTM members said they saw backlash because of the abstentions on social media and heard criticisms from Democrats, so they wanted to respond and explain their strategy. RTM member Richard Muckle sent a statement to The Day on behalf of the Republican members who abstained from the vote.
“Some members abstained because they do not agree with the need to significantly increase already high salaries during a pandemic, but did not want to send the contract back to arbitration,” the statement reads. “These salary increases are a product of the Connecticut State Department of Education’s requirements and Waterford’s ability to pay. Further investigation and action needs to be taken to ensure the fiscal viability of these proposed increases and ensure fiscal responsibility for the town of Waterford.”
If the 10 RTM members who abstained had voted no instead, the contract negotiations would have been sent to arbitration, which would’ve forced the town to spend money on arbitration and legal fees.
But those who abstained still wanted to draw attention to what they feel are exorbitant administrator salaries.
Republicans also called for a comparison of Waterford’s administrative salaries with those of surrounding towns and communities with similar populations and median incomes.
The new contract and its 2.1% raise was the result of a November mediation session between the Board of Education and the union. The contract takes effect July 1 and ends June 30, 2022. The total salary for the 10 union members during that time will be $1,525,104.
The employees include three elementary school principals, one middle school principal, one middle school assistant principal, one high school principal, two high school assistant principals, one director of special services and one director of athletics and student activities.
Under the agreement, depending on longevity and educational background, assistant principals can make roughly $125,000 to $149,000, the high school principal between $142,000 and $171,000, elementary principals between $128,000 and $154,000, middle school principals/special services director between $136,000 and $161,000, and the director of athletics and student activities about $122,000.
Under the existing contract, by contrast, assistant principals could make between $122,000 and $145,000, and high school principals could make between $139,000 and $167,000.
“We are fortunate to have amicable, cordial and professional negotiations with all of our unions, and the negotiations with our administrators was no different,” Superintendent Thomas Giard said in January.
The Board of Education will begin negotiating with the union again this fall for a contract to begin July 1, 2022.
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