2010-11-25 / Front Page

Committee approves new teacher contracts

By Tim Riel

Just one day after the Jamestown Teachers Association ratifi ed their contract, the School Committee approved the terms during their Nov. 18 meeting.

The new two-year agreement replaces the previous contract which expired June 30. According to the School Committee’s Action Notes (SCAN), “the key changes are in health care, compensation and professional development.”

This contract year, the teachers agreed to no increase in salary and will not move a step higher on the pay scale, but will receive a one-time payment of $1,500 in December. For the second contract year, there will be a one percent pay increase for teachers who have room for advancement, but teachers already on the top pay step will receive a $1,200 payout instead of the one percent raise.

In regards to health care, the teachers agreed to add a $250 deductible to their health insurance plan. Effective on July 1, 2011, all teachers will contribute 17.5 percent of the cost of their premiums. But for the remainder of this school year, the terms aren’t as straight forward. For teachers hired on or before July 1, 1997, each will increase their contribution to the cost of their premium from 5 percent to 10 percent. Teachers hired after that date will contribute 15 percent to the cost of their premium.

According to SCAN, “If a new or extension contract agreement is reached before the 2012 financial town meeting, all teachers’ contribution will increase to 20 percent on June 30, 2012,” which is the expiration date of the new contract.

Some of the professional development aspects of the contract will depend on whether or not Race to the Top (RTT) funds become available and also effect parent-teacher conferences. Professional development refers to work done by teachers – outside of the classroom – to enhance their abilities to be effective teachers and to compare teaching strategies with one another. Such strategies include continuing education, in-service education, curriculum writing, study groups, peer collaboration and peer mentoring.

Starting next year (due to the late contract settlement), teachers will be obligated to hold parentteacher conferences either before or after school during a two-week period. This will free up the current parent-teacher day to be used for professional development.

“Also, two additional professional development days will be added to the current school year if [RTT] funds become available for this purpose,” according to SCAN. “In the 2011-12 contract year, the orientation day will be replaced by a professional development day and one additional day will be incorporated if RTT money is available.”

This will leave a total of seven professional development days.

RTT is a $4.35 million federal program created by the U.S. Department of Education to try and urge improvements in K-12 education. The program is based on a 500-point system that school systems must meet in order to receive federal funding. The areas in which school systems are judged are teacher and principal effectiveness, state success factor, developing and adopting common standards (outlined in the Common Core State Standards Initiative), having a strong charter and innovation school presence, turning around the lower-achieving schools and implementing a statewide longitudinal data system. Points are also given for prioritizing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education.

According to Superintendent Marcia Lukon, the primary challenge that Jamestown faces is that the school department lacks the administrative capacity to complete all of the tasks that the RTT initiative demands.

In other news, Lukon reported that Deborah Gist, Rhode Island’s Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, will visit each school district this academic year. Gist is scheduled to visit Jamestown on March 8, which “will include a classroom visit, a meeting with teachers and a community forum that brings together town leadership, district leadership, parents, students and educators to learn more about [Rhode Island’s] education reform agenda.”

Also, the Committee reviewed the year-to-date sales of Sodexo, the school district’s food-service provider. According to SCAN, “Sodexo is addressing decreasing participation at Lawn by forming a focus group of seventh and eighth graders to identify what this group wants. Sodexo is using the results – a preference for ‘unhealthy’ options such as bacon and sausage – by incorporating turkey versions of these meats in the December menu.”

The next workshop meeting of the School Committee will be held on Dec. 2. The next business meeting will be on Thursday, Dec. 16. All open meetings begin at 7 p.m. in the Lawn Avenue School Library.

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