2010-08-26 / News

N.K. teachers settle contract; Jamestown teachers to meet soon

By Eileen M. Daly

The North Kingstown School Dept. has reached a three-year contract agreement with the National Education Association of North Kingstown Teachers that both sides say reflects a collaborative effort. Meanwhile, Jamestown teachers and the School Committee have yet to agree on a new contract, with meetings scheduled for the weeks of Sept. 6 and Sept. 13, according to Jamestown School Committee Chairperson Cathy Kaiser.

“We anticipate winding up negotiations during that time period,” she said.

According to North Kingstown Superintendent Phil Thornton, the new North Kingstown teacher contract will save the district some $3.5 million over the course of three years.

“This contract indicates a very strong effort on behalf of the teachers,” he said.

The new contract includes:

• A 0% pay increase in the first year.

• A 1% pay increase in years two and three.

• A 20% co-pay for healthcare benefits (up from 15%)for all three years.

• Elimination of health insurance buy backs for all new employees.

• A healthcare buy back cap for current employees of $2,000 for a family plan and $750 for an individual plan.

• Elimination of life insurance for all new and current employees.

Asked to comment on the North Kingstown contract, Kaiser echoed the sentiment that the tough economic climate here in Rhode Island is contributing to concessions.

“We are still in negotiations in Jamestown, so I cannot make comparisons,” she said. “I will say that the concessions that the North Kingstown teachers are making mirror the concessions being made by teachers across the state due to the current economic climate. The North Kingstown teachers and administrators are working together to solve this problem.”

North Kingstown School Committee Chairman Larry Ceresi also complimented the teachers association for their collaborative effort and said that the cooperation that has taken place during the last five months is indicative of positive changes taking place in education in North Kingstown.

“The fact that negotiations started in March and there has been nothing newsworthy to report shows the collaborative efforts of the teachers and the administration to get on with getting the work done,” he said.

Mary Barden, president of the North Kingstown division of the teachers association, and Barry McPeake, chairman of the negotiating team, also touted the collaborative effort and the renewed focus on education.

“Moving forward there is a lot of work to do educationally, with Dr. Gist and with the increasing changes in education over the past several years. In order to do that work, we need collaboration,” Barden said.

Thornton said he feels “much better” about where the high school is at this point in terms of meeting mandates, and outlined some of the changes that have led to this improvement.

The full contract agreement will be posted on the school department website as soon as it is completed, Thornton said.

In other education news, it was announced Tuesday that Rhode Island will receive up to $75 million in the second round of the federal “Race to the Top” school reform grant competition.

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