South Burlington teachers, board in overnight meeting to reach deal

SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) It's a battle to bargain in South Burlington.

"It's their decision to impose working conditions that causes the current crisis," says Noah Everitt of the South Burlington Educators Association.

The school board and teachers' union have been going back and forth on teacher contracts for almost a year now. They still haven't made a deal.

"This past year we had to cut $1.2 million out of our budget so the we would get a budget that would pass on the third try," says school board member Martin LaLonde.

The board says its made significant changes to the working terms it imposed back in August, reverting back to a salary grid to determine raises, transitioning to a percentage split for health insurance costs, and increasing raises for the second year of the contract. But the union tells us it still isn't satisfied with how the board wants to calculate raises, saying it will make the district a less desirable place for teachers to work. The group also didn't find the health care and compensation offers reasonable.

Priscilla Liguori asks: "Taxpayers want to know: what's the union asking the board in terms of raises?"

"We're asking the board, not in terms of raises...were asking the board to negotiate with us in good faith. An imposition of the contract isn't in good faith," says Everitt.

These discussion affect about 2,400 students and 240 teachers. The district's business manager says the median salary for teachers is $76,142. That means half of the teachers make less, and half make more. The base pay is $41,418. The top end is $89,788.

"Our most highly paid teachers, of which we have approximately a third of our teachers are in that category, are more highly paid than any other teachers in the state," says LaLonde.

LaLonde insists the district doesn't want to change that, but he does say the board is trying to move some of that salary money to the junior teachers.

Union spokesperson Noah Everitt says it's the board's inability to budge that's holding back progress.

"What we're looking to see happen is for both sides to come together and commit to figuring this out at the table," says Everitt.

Meanwhile, parents like Michelle Rosowsky are anxious about the possibility of a strike. She remembers their October 20-14 work stoppage.

"A teachers strike just fractures that sense of togetherness and I know from last time it takes a long time to heal and to build that back up," says Rosowsky.

The superintendent has already sent out a note about the possibility of a strike.