Chariho School Committee, teachers agree to 3-year contract

Chariho School Committee, teachers agree to 3-year contract


Chariho High School Jill Connor / The Westerly Sun

WOOD RIVER JUNCTION — The Chariho School Committee has approved a new contract with the district’s 326 teachers. The three-year collective agreement, which took about a year to negotiate, will be in effect from Jan. 2018 to 2021, and will have a total financial impact on the district of approximately $1 million.

At the Tuesday meeting, members also approved an extension of the current contract, which expired at the end of August.

The extension will remain in effect until the new contract begins in January.

The vote wasn’t unanimous. Members Georgia Ure of Hopkinton and Melania Van der Hooft and Clay Johnson, both of Richmond, voiced concerns that although the extension and the new contract were voted on separately, they nonetheless amounted to a four year agreement.

“For me, I feel it’s a long time with the extension,” Van der Hooft said. “I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the extension or anything wrong with the three-year contract, but it’s a lot to ask. We just made our budget.”

Chariho attorney Jon Anderson said the committee had voted on two separate agreements, not a single four-year contract, but Ure and Van der Hooft remained unconvinced and voted no.

School Committee Chair Sylvia Stanley, a member of the negotiating subcommittee, described the contract as a good deal for the district and union members.

“We put a lot of time and effort into it,” she said. “It wasn’t something where we just sat down one day and said ‘we’ll do this.’ Considering the towns’ budgets is something we always do, although we represent Chariho schools.”

Members of the National Education Association, or NEA Chariho, ratified the contract earlier in the day by a vote of 157 to 46.

Union President Vin Levcowich said his members were satisfied that the deal was fair to teachers and to the district.

The teachers supported the schedule of wage increases and a new, more streamlined grievance procedure, but they took some time to adjust to the new proposed health care system, which will now take the form of high-deductible health savings accounts, or HSAs.

“It definitely was a stumbling block, because it’s change,” he said of the HSAs. “First we had to educate our committee and then once we educated members on what the benefits of an HSA are and we dispelled a lot of the myths that were going around, I think people started to embrace it a lot more than they initially did.”

cdrummond@ @cynthiadrummon4

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