Norwich school board approves new contracts for teachers, administrators

Norwich - The Board of Education on Wednesday unanimously approved new three-year contracts with the Norwich Teachers' League and the school Administrators' Association, both of which will take effect next July.

School and union officials said they were pleased to have the contract negotiations completed on time and well before the board must finalize the 2015-16 school budget in spring. The teachers' union contract was ratified overwhelmingly, while the administrators' contract passed unanimously in union votes.

The teachers' union contract, which covers 293 employees, will add $1.6 million to salary and benefits costs over the next three years. The administrators' contract, which covers 17 employees, will add $166,649 to salary and benefits over three years, school Business Administrator Athena Nagel said.

The teachers' union contract calls for 2.99 percent salary increases each year, but the distribution of those raises will differ each year. In the first year, teachers will forego any step increases that would put them in higher salary brackets and will receive the 2.99 percent salary increase across the board, Nagel said.

Teachers in all but the highest pay step will receive their step increases in the second year, but will have no other salary increase. Teachers already in the highest pay step will receive a 0.56 percent salary increase in the second year.

In the third year of the teachers' contract, teachers in the highest pay step will receive a 1 percent increase, while those in all other pay steps will receive a 0.43 percent increase.

The teachers' contract also adds a health insurance option with lower premiums and high deductibles each year and adds a health savings account. The contract also calls for increases in co-payments in other insurance plans.

Overall, the teachers' union contract will cost an additional $539,696 next year, $556,902 in the second year and $571,731 in the third year.

The administrators' contract calls for salary increases of 2.65 percent in the first year, 2.4 percent in the second year and 2.7 percent in the third year. Salaries will vary for administrators who move up to a different classification in a certain year.

The administrators' contract also starts in July and has similar health insurance changes as the teachers' contract. The contract also includes changes to some job classifications, eliminating the alternative high school principal position - the program was taken over by Norwich Free Academy - and changing "special education director" to director of student services and special education.

The new administrators' contract will add $58,174 to salaries and benefits in the first year, $50,097 in the second year and $58,378 in the third year.

Superintendent Abby Dolliver said state Department of Education officials give each district a time window to negotiate new contracts, and the Norwich contract approvals fell within the assigned window.

"I think we worked well together and came up with fair settlements for both," Dolliver said. "It was respectful and we tried to do this fair for everyone involved."

Beth Hanlon, Norwich Teachers' League co-president, said the union didn't get everything it asked for, but was pleased with the negotiations.

"We are very pleased with the outcome of the contract," Hanlon, a special education teacher at the John M. Moriarty School, said.

Siobhan O'Connor, principal of the Samuel Huntington School and president of the administrators' union, agreed with Dolliver's characterization of the talks.

"It's a fair contract," O'Connor said. "It's reflective of the respect that the board has of the administrators and the understanding of the challenges we have in Norwich public schools."

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