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Melrose

Teachers get new raises, performance standards

MELROSE — A new teacher contract will boost teachers’ pay by $2 million over the next three years, and includes new performance standards for teachers tied to student test scores on MCAS and other standardized tests.

The city’s 248 public school teachers, represented by the Melrose Education Association , will receive a 1 percent annual raise for each year of the contract, along with a 1 percent annual cost of living adjustment, officials said.

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Mayor Robert J. Dolan called the agreement the “richest contract the city has ever given” to the teachers union.

The increase — 6 percent over the three years — is necessary to keep veteran teachers, particularly in the areas of math and science, from seeking better-paying jobs elsewhere, he said.

“We’re losing good teachers, because we are not competitive in the middle ranges,” said Dolan, a member of the School Committee.

Salaries for teachers vary, based on the level of experience and education. Overall, teacher pay accounts for $16 million of the $22 million for school disttrict salaries included in this year’s city budget.

Naomi Baline, the teachers union president, declined to comment on the new agreement.

School Superintendent Cyndy Taymore, who was appointed last year, referred questions to city solicitor Robert Van Campen.

Under the new agreement, the base pay for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and six years of experience will increase from $49,843 to $52,905 by the time the contract expires in 2016, according to a salary schedule provided by the school department.

By comparison, a sixth-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree was paid $53,481 in Wakefield and $51,172 in Reading, according to contracts published on the website of the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Reading and Wakefield were among 10 school districts of similar demographics and academic performance Melrose used to compare salaries, Van Campen said.

The new pay scale was necessary to put Melrose teachers “on a trajectory to get closer to their counterparts,” he said. “After three years, they will be much more competitive with their counterparts” in similar communities.

The union approved the agreement by a vote of 195 to 35 last month, according to Dolan.

The School Committee voted 4 to 1, with two members absent, including Dolan, to approve the agreement during a special meeting on Sept. 16.

“We’re very happy with it,” said School Committee chairwoman Kristin Thorp. “We look forward to working with the teachers.”

She declined to comment further.

School Committee member Carrie Kourkoumelis said she voted against the contract because the committee did not receive a full draft of the agreement, either at a Sept. 10 meeting, when it was first presented for a vote, or at the Sept. 16 special meeting.

“We have yet to see a fully integrated contract,” Kourkoumelis said, noting the committee only received copies of memorandums of agreement and the old contract.

She added: “I am also concerned about the terms of the agreement. We didn’t really have a discussion about where the funds are coming from, or what impacts come next.”

The new educator evaluation system included in the contract complies with a regulation adopted in 2011 by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Melrose is among the school districts that had to negotiate an evaluation system into its labor contract with teachers this year or risk losing federal Race to the Top grant funds.

The new system will include a self-assessment by teachers as well as observation by outside evaluators. Student performance on standardized tests, including the MCAS, will be among the criteria used to evaluate teachers, according to the agreement.

Teachers found to be unsatisfactory can be put on a 45-day improvement plan, and could face possible dismissal unless they improve, the agreement states.

“When it’s necessary, unsatisfactory educators will be put on a plan,’’ Van Campen said.

Teachers must also receive additional training, and there will be eight early-release days to allow time for professional development. The prior contract allowed for seven early-release days, five of which were required for parent-teacher conference time, according to a copy of the agreement.

Four new committees, including a labor/management panel to address workplace issues and one devoted to professional development, were also created, the agreement states.

“This gives our superintendent a lot of tools in terms of professional development,” Dolan said. “It’s a very serious performance-evaluation tool.”

The agreement, which took months to negotiate, was hailed as “historic” by both sides — for the salary increases and the negotiating technique used — in a joint announcement issued after the pact was signed by the School Committee. The new contract expires on Aug. 31, 2016.

For the first time, the two sides used a method called interest-based bargaining, agreeing to negotiate areas of common concern, rather than to exchange contract proposals. The format was suggested by Taymore, who was negotiating her first contract since becoming superintendent, Van Campen said.

“She wanted to have more of a collaborative relationship with the teachers union,” he said. “We believe it worked out well for both sides.”

Kathy McCabe can be reached at katherine.mccabe@ globe.com.
Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKMcCabe.
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