On Wednesday morning, teachers lined up in front of Andover schools to wave to returning students and thank parents for their support. Parents got a reprieve from upended childcare and work schedules. And, presumably, members of the Andover School Committee and the Andover Education Association’s negotiating team got caught up on sleep.
But still to be determined are the costs. While the financial impact of the contract is a straightforward matter of accounting, the cost of a divided Town as it heads into what will be an emotionally-charged special town meeting on Monday will be harder to measure.
“The last several months, and in particular the last five days, have been difficult for our entire community, and we are under no illusion that it will take time to rebuild the bonds that make Andover so unique,” School Committee Chair Tracey Spruce said in a statement Tuesday after the two sides reached a tentative deal to end a strike that canceled three days of school. “We are committed to that healing, and hope that we can work together in good faith to ensure that this is the last time our children’s education is disrupted by a strike.”
Even the financial impact of the new contract could fuel more heated debate: the school committee is warning the new contract will force layoffs and cuts if the Town doesn’t increase the budget for Andover Public Schools.
“Our next fight will be working with the community to prevent the Andover School Committee from making unnecessary cuts to programs and services,” AEA said in a Facebook post Wednesday afternoon.
The two sides were seemingly deadlocked on Monday morning after more than 20 hours of bargaining over the weekend. By Monday evening, however, both sides gave hope they were nearing a deal.
“We’re optimistic that we’re getting close. We’ve seen some movement on the part of the school committee. It’s given us hope,” AEA Vice President Julian DiGloria said during a press conference just after 8 p.m.
The following chart shows the ground the two sides closed between Monday morning and Tuesday afternoon:
|ASC On Monday||AEA On Monday||Final Agreement|
|Total Cost of Latest Proposal||$9.6 million||$15.1 million||*|
|Teacher Salaries||14.25% increase for teachers over four years (3.56% /year)||18% over four years (4.5%/year)||15.5% over four years|
|Instructional Assistant Salaries||23.4% over four years (5%/year) with a 2% differential for hard-to-fill positions||34% increase over four years (8.5%/year)||34% over three years|
|Recess/Planning Time||10 minutes additional planning time||10 minutes of additional planning time as 10 minutes additional recess time for elementary students||30 minutes for both lunch and recess for elementary school students|
25 hours of teacher-led time in elementary schools
Reduction in staff meeting time.
|Curriculum||No curriculum changes.||Removal of Lucy Calkins literacy curriculum||*|
|Points Agreed Upon Before Monday||12 weeks parental leave, including 8 weeks district-paid parental leave, and 4 weeks of paid leave from accrued sick time.|
60 days of family medical leave by using accrued sick days
Other deal points included bring IA sick days in line with teachers, an extra personal day for IA and teachersand the ability to use 15 sick days to care for a seriously-ill family member.
The school committee’s concession on instructional assistant wages means entry-level IA’s will make $40,000, and the lowest paid IA’s will see a raise of 59.9 percent from their current salaries of about $23,000. Andover’s highest-paid teachers will get a 17 percent raise over the next four years.
How the district pays for the new contract remains to be seen. The discussions began Monday when the school committee, finance committee, and select board held a joint executive session.
“We heard clearly from the teachers and many in the community that teacher and instructional assistant pay was the priority in this agreement and we responded accordingly,” Spruce said. “At the same time, the final agreement is inconsistent with the principles of the town’s long-range financial plan so, to live within our means, we will need to make meaningful program, service, and staff reductions.”
Facebook groups for Andover residents had dropped debate about Monday’s special town meeting last week to focus on the teacher’s strike. Even by social media standards, the “discussion” was vitriolic — so much so that some group moderators were forced to delete comment and write posts asking for civility.
But by Wednesday morning, the focus was back on Monday’s main event: Article 7, which asks special town meeting will be asked to approve $1.3 million for a detailed design of a new, $451.5 million Andover High School and, separately, $500,000 for a study to look at ways to extend the life of the existing building.
Opponents — who argue an estimated 22 percent increase in average property tax bills and a downgrade to Andover’s bond rating — have likely had their case bolstered. If the Town can barely pay for the new contract, how can it afford a new school?