The Portland Board of Public Education voted unanimously at its Sept. 20 meeting to approve a new three-year contract with the Portland Education Association (PEA), the union representing the district’s teachers.
“Ratifying this agreement with the PEA is an incredibly important step forward for us as a school district,” said Superintendent Xavier Botana. “We have been talking about how we can create an environment where we are one and there is collective efficacy, and how people in the district can feel that the organization is aligned in moving that common vision forward. I believe this contract helps us do that. This is about trust on both sides that we are on the same page and working collaboratively toward the same goal – of preparing and empowering our students to succeed.”
The superintendent gave a “huge shoutout” for the tremendous amount of time and energy put in by members of the negotiating team: Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Melea Nalli; Assistant Superintendent for School Management Aaron Townsend; Executive Director of Human Resources Barbara Stoddard; East End Community School Principal Boyd Marley; Board Chair Emily Figdor; Board Vice Chair Adam Burk; and the district’s chief negotiator, attorney Campbell Badger, who is a Portland resident and taxpayer..
Botana also recognized “the very strong team on the PEA side,” which was led by its chief negotiator, Beth Romano-Arsenault, and included the former PEA president, Caroline Foster, and the PEA’s current president, Kerrie Dowdy. “We’re incredibly grateful to the PEA team,” Botana said.
Board Chair Figdor also praised both sides. “I really want to just recognize the extraordinary work that happened between the two teams,” she said. “At first when we sat down and realized there were a lot of issues, it wasn’t clear that we were going to make progress like we made. But we were able to step back and listen to each other and talk about the values that we were trying to achieve and agree on our common values and vision. Doing that, we achieved more than we thought possible.”
Vice Chair Burk was unable to attend the meeting but issued a statement thanking both sides for their “thoughtful, caring work” from the first day of negotiations. “I’m proud of us,” Burk said. “I think we all listened and worked hard to find solutions at every turn. This contract is built on mutual respect for everyone involved and for our common goals in the Portland Promise.”
At the meeting, PEA President Kerrie Dowdy thanked “the many voices of the PEA involved in this contract.”
Some key provisions of the new contract are:
● Salary scale and/or step pay increases each year that add up to a combined 13.4 percent increase over the three-year contract, totaling $6,970,792. The investments in the salary scale are designed to make the district’s teacher salaries more competitive with regional school districts, which will help the Portland Public Schools attract new educators and retain existing staff. An adjustment at the lower end of the salary scale not only increases pay for new teachers but allows them to move up the salary scale more quickly.
● The work day of educators has been extended so that it now will include 25 minutes before/after instructional work day, instead of just 15 minutes before the start of the day. 20 of those minutes will be flexibly scheduled by school leadership teams to meet student needs before or after the school day.
● While the district understands that educators already do work beyond the instructional day, this contract identifies an additional two hours per month of time that can be scheduled to collaborate with colleagues, support students or for family engagement.
● The establishment of stipended leadership teams in all schools whose focus is to create a formal structure to collaborate on advancing teaching and learning in each building.
Detailed highlights of the new contract can be viewed HERE.
The PEA’s previous three-year contract with the Board covered the period running from Aug. 26, 2019 to Aug. 25, 2022. This new contract is in effect from August 26, 2022 to August 31, 2025. View the full new contract HERE.
The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with approximately 6,500 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 50 languages. 51 percent of the district’s students are white and 49 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals