Three years ago, the local teachers union negotiated an overly generous contract. Details below. Stand by for major controversy this time around.

MGRS reaches deal
Committee, union approve new contract

By Christopher Marcisz

Berkshire Eagle Staff

WILLIAMSTOWN — Ending a nearly two-year contract dispute, the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee yesterday narrowly approved a new, three-year deal with its teachers union.

Several committee members expressed concerns about the length of the contract, as well as the future financial implications for the district.

The vote came just hours after the Mount Greylock Educators’ Association had voted to approve the agreement.

“While we are glad that this protracted contract dispute is finally resolved, we know that there will be other difficult issues to grapple with in the future to ensure that this district remains competitive,” union President Rose-Marie Pelletier said in a statement after the vote. “We are relieved to be going home for the holidays with a new contract.”

The final contract includes a one-year arrangement to cover last year, when the teachers worked under the terms of their previous contract. Under the new contract, teachers will pay 20 percent of the cost of their health benefits — up from 10 percent under the previous contract. The teachers will get 4-percent pay increases for each year, for a total 12-percent increase over the term of the
contract.

The school committee vote came to 4 to 3, with Committee Chairman Robert Petricca, and members David Langston, David Archibald, and Christopher Kapiloff voting in favor. Members Timothy O’Brien, Sarah White and Lanesborough Town Administrator Paul Boudreau — who is the municipal representative in contract matters — voted against the contract. Member Ronald Tinkham abstained.

Member Langston, who was on the committee’s negotiating team, said after the vote that “the gains and the agreements made put us closer to the standards” of how other public employee contracts are structured.

He said it was important that they reached a deal on pay increases and the health-care split, which were the primary stumbling blocks throughout the negotiations.

Langston suggested that ongoing negotiations with the teachers through the life of the contract would be important to resolve other issues, instead of waiting until the last minute.

But some other members decided they could not support the agreement. O’Brien noted that the negotiations had taken 22 months, and said he was concerned about the length of the contract. White said that this was the first contract since the fiscal crisis in spring 2003, in which staff and programs were cut, fees for activities were introduced, and taxpayers were called on for additional funds.

“I feel going out with an extra year at 4-percent increases raises big questions in my mind,” she said. “I’d like teachers to see this as a collaborative process to keep Greylock as excellent as it is.”

Boudreau said he was particularly concerned about the finances at the end of the contract.

“I don’t think the community will be able to support it,” he said.

Indeed.

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