June 24, 2018
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Union-area school district, teachers OK incentive pay plan

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

UNION, Maine — A labor contract worked out between the Regional School Unit 40 Board and its approximately 200 teachers includes a provision for pay based partially on student performance.

“For Maine, some of the features of the new contract are ground breaking changes in the way teachers are paid and represent a step forward in accountability for teachers and students,” states a news release from the board. “These changes are directed toward improved student achievement through better teaching.”

Terms of the contract for the teachers in the school system that serves Union, Warren, Washington, Friendship and Waldoboro were released last week. The two parties have been negotiating for nearly two years to reach a deal.

Teachers will receive a 1.5 percent raise retroactive to the 2012-2013 school year and a 2 percent bump in pay for the current school year and for 2014-2015.

Eligible teachers also will advance a step on the salary scale each year under the new contract, as has been traditional, the board noted. There will be some additional options for teachers’ health insurance, including higher-deductible plans.

Newly hired teachers will be required to obtain a master’s degree within 10 years of being hired by the district.

Teams of teachers and the principal in each school in the district will develop goals for improvement in cooperation with the administration and subject to approval by the school board. If the school’s goals are attained, each teacher in the school will receive an additional $1,000 in pay for 2014-15. If the school fails to meet the goals, the money set aside for additional pay will be used to pay for professional development focused on improved teaching and student performance.

“The board feels that this approach will tend to promote collaboration among faculty rather than the competition fostered by traditional ‘merit pay’ plans that focus on individual teachers,” the board stated in its news release.

Board member Tod Brown said that this cooperative effort worked well three years ago when the test scores at the Miller School in Waldoboro were poor and staff members worked together to help individualize education for students. The effort resulted in improved scores, he noted.

In an effort to develop more student interaction with the community, teachers also will be able to receive an additional $500 if they develop student activities focused on the community that are related to curricular goals, the board stated.

“Although the financial resources available to fund our schools are under severe pressure, the board feels that the settlement is fair to both the teachers and the taxpayers. The achievement of our students has been the board’s focus throughout the lengthy negotiations and it is the board’s hope that this contract will make it clear to all that we have high expectations of our students, our teachers and our community,” the news release concludes.

The tentative deal was reached last month but details were not released until the school board members and teachers had ratified it.

The last contract expired Aug. 31, 2012, but the faculty has been working under terms of that contract since. The two sides had earlier tried mediation, but that failed to break the logjam.

The sides then turned to a fact-finding panel that recommended retroactive 2.66 percent raises for teachers in 2012-13 and 2.9 percent pay increases for 2013-14. Following that, the panel recommended implementing a compensation system tied partially to student performance for 2014-15.

A representative for the teachers association was not immediately available Wednesday morning for comment.

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