New contract for Westerly teachers includes higher health insurance contribution, fewer work days

New contract for Westerly teachers includes higher health insurance contribution, fewer work days

WESTERLY — The School Committee has formally approved a new three-year agreement with the union that represents Westerly’s educators. 

The committee voted to ratify the agreement at its July meeting, and voted to adopt the final contract document Wednesday. 

In the contract with the Westerly Teachers Association, which goes into effect Sept. 1, educators in the town’s five public schools will forgo raises in the first year, followed by increases of 1.5 percent in years two and three. 

“They do that in recognition of the fact that they’re going to need the community’s support in this building project going forward,” Superintendent of Schools Mark Garceau said. “And they took very reasonable pay increases in years two and three.”

Officials are preparing to present a multimillion-dollar plan to renovate the elementary schools, which could include a new grade 3-5 building at the site of State Street School. Voters will decide on the plan’s fate in November 2019. 

Teachers also have agreed to a slightly longer work day, in exchange for cutting three work days from the school year in the upcoming school-year calendar. 

In the past, teachers were allotted 188 school days, which included classroom instruction days and days spent on professional development. 

“It was the longest of any district in the state,” Garceau said. 

The change eliminated one of two professional-development days before the start of the school year and two days at the end of the year, which also cut two days off the student calendar, bringing the total to the state-mandated 180 days.  

The contract also sets up higher employee contributions to health insurance plans.  

Employees in the high-deductible health plan will contribute 15 percent of their paycheck in year one, and 20 percent in years two and three.

“We had members paying co-shares as low as 10 percent,” Garceau said. 

All new hires will be offered only the high-deductible health care plan with a 20 percent co-share.

Employees in the preferred provider organization plan will contribute 22 percent in year one, and 25 percent in the two following years.

Dental insurance employee contributions are 20 percent for the length of the contract.  

Talks between the teachers’ union, which represents 296 members, and administrators started in November and lasted eight months.

School Committee Chairwoman Diane Chiaradio Bowdy thanked Garceau for working with the WTA and said the agreement resulted in “a great contract in record time.”

Committee members Marianne Nardone and Patricia Panciera, both retired educators, served on the district’s negotiating team with Garceau and attorney William Nardone.

The new contract expires Aug. 31, 2021, although both sides in the past have approved one-year extensions if needed.

“Kudos to the WTA, this was not an easy process,” Garceau said. “But they stepped up to the plate. And we kept the emphasis in all conversations on what’s in the best interest of kids.”


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