SAD 22 board unanimously approves teachers’ contract

Posted Nov. 14, 2012, at 10:29 p.m.

HAMPDEN, Maine — SAD 22 got one major step closer to a performance-based pay scale system for its teachers as its 13-member board of directors voted unanimously to approve a new three-year contract with the Tri-22 Teachers’ Association Wednesday night.

Now comes the next step.

“We have the words in the contract, but there’s no meat on the bones yet,” said Kelly Bickmore, the SAD 22 board of directors chairwoman. “Now we’ll have to work on the finer points.

“We’ve done a lot of the work initially, but now we primarily need the numbers. It’ll take us a good couple of months to flesh it out,” she said.

Tri-22 co-president Nancy Simpson said the board’s vote concludes the first round, which also involved about 150 teachers in the system voting to approve the contract last month.

“I won’t tell you the specific vote total, but it was ratified by a significant majority of the membership,” said Simpson, a math teacher at Reeds Brook Middle School.

“There are lingering concerns, no question,” said Simpson, whose association represents 210 teachers in the SAD 22 schools in Hampden, Winterport and Newburgh. “We had strong support for the contract, but I think a lot of that is because our members have a great deal of faith in their negotiating team.

“We’re asking members to take a leap of faith with us because we can’t show the details right now, and it is a voluntary system, and I think that’s the aspect that makes it palatable at all.”

Bickmore explained that teachers, whether starting their first year in SAD 22 or their 21st, can opt out of the performance-based system and use the former, tenure-based one.

Superintendent Rick Lyons said Wednesday’s unanimous vote came after 15 negotiating sessions over 12 months, and he commended the hard work put in by the five-member board negotiating committee formed by Bickmore, Martha Harris, Emil Genest, Rick Moore and Lyons, as well as Simpson and other teacher representatives.

Both Bickmore and Simpson said the next round of meetings to hammer out the specific performance-based pay structure will begin in January. They hope to get things done in two months.

Simpson, who has been working without a contract since the old one expired Aug. 31, said some teachers are still quite concerned about the performance pay element.

“Those concerns range from philosophical opposition to questions stemming from a lack of details on the system,” she said. “Some are concerned we’re creating a two-tiered system with a limited amount of financial resources.”

Bickmore said there are lots of models out there for them to use as they create a plan to evaluate and pay teachers.

“We’ve talked about matching compensation into their own supervision and evaluation, which does have a component of student outcome, but it’s not taking test scores and rolling them into some kind of formula,” Bickmore said. “The concept is using some of those business or private sector ways to evaluate employees and compensate them accordingly. The other piece is being able to compress the time period that good teachers used to have to wait to be rewarded with a pay raise.”

Under the previous pay scale system, teachers earned automatic 3 percent raises per year after their third year in the district. After the 16th year, raises are awarded again only at the 20th and 25th service year.

Simpson pointed out that the vast majority of SAD 22 teachers are already considered high performing.

“Last year, I asked Rick what percentage of teachers he considered high-performing and he said 97 percent, which is great,” Simpson said. “But that also makes you wonder if there’s enough money to reward that high a percentage.”

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