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Hartford Teachers Have Three-Year Deal

The school board and teachers union have formally accepted a new three-year contract.

Representatives from both sides said they were pleased.

“We believe that we got the best package for everybody involved,” said Cherrie Torrey, the president of the Hartford Education Association. “That would be the taxpayers and the students and the staff. We were pleased with our package.”

School Board Chairman Kevin Christie said the board was “comfortable” with the contract. Christie said he was excited about the implications of a longer than usual pact. Past contracts have typically been for a single year.

“When you negotiate every year, all you have a chance to do is talk about the same old stuff,” he said. “(The new contract) gives both sides the opportunity to do a lot more quality work around trying to come up with strategies to improve the educational climate in the district.”

For the current school year, Hartford School District teachers will receive an average pay increase of 2.5 percent to their base salary, Torrey said. The next year teachers will see an average increase of 2.75 percent. For 2014-15, the final year of the contract, they will receive an average 3 percent increase.

Some teachers also will receive “step” pay raises accrued for greater teaching experience and higher levels of education.

Torrey said the most notable change to the salary schedule in the new contract is the addition of three more steps, which means teachers need 16 years of experience to reach maximum salary levels. The change means teachers at the top of the pay scale will see more incremental raises as they near the max.

Torrey said this means the district won’t have to pay larger-scale raises to some teachers over the course of a single year.

According to Christie, most salary schedules move in “even increments.” The extra steps were a way for the board to provide more uniform percentage jumps from step to step.

“Over time, the schedule has become very disjointed,” Christie said. “So some of the steps might be a percentage, and then another step might be another percentage, so there’s no way to evenly apply a dollar value to the schedule.”

Teachers will pay more for health insurance under the new contract, taking on 0.5 percent more of the cost during the 2012-13 school year, and then an additional 0.5 percent during 2013-14. The payment will remain the same for the final year of the contract.

The contract was agreed upon after negotiations that spanned months, Torrey said.

In March, the board declared an impasse, as it had a couple of years earlier when negotiations between the two parties fell apart. In July, the groups had an 11-hour mediation session. At the end of October, they reviewed a fact-finders report, the recommendations of which ultimately led to the acceptance of the contract at a Nov. 28 School Board meeting.

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.