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School Board, Teachers Agree on New Two-Year Contract

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School Board, Teachers Agree on New Two-Year Contract
Posted on 12/16/2014

The Portland Board of Public Education voted unanimously at its business meeting Tuesday, Dec. 16, to approve a new two-year agreement with the teachers’ union. Highlights of the contract include increased instructional time for students, more professional learning time for teachers and a 2 percent cost-of-living salary increase in the 2015-2016 school year.

Members of the Portland Education Association (PEA) had already voted on Dec. 15 to approve the new contract, which covers the period running from Sept. 1, 2014 to Aug. 31, 2016.

“This collective bargaining agreement is historic, not only for Portland but for the state,” said Portland Public Schools Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk. “It puts students and families first, values and invests in our teachers and is fair to taxpayers."

The agreement freezes salaries and step increases for the first year, with the exception of approved lane changes, and includes a 2 percent cost-of-living increase and step increases in the second year. Also in 2015-2016, the board’s cost sharing of any increase in health insurance premiums will be capped at 3 percent.

And, starting in the 2015-2016 school year, students will gain 100 more minutes of instructional time each week. Teachers will get an additional 180 minutes of learning/development time weekly.

That will entail teachers working longer days – 7.5 hours instead of 6.5 hours. But teachers

will work fewer days overall in the school year –183 instead of the current 187.

The student day will also increase, by 20 minutes each day to a 6.5-hour day, but the overall number of days that students are in school each year will decrease from the current 180 to 178 days. However, even though students are in school two fewer days, they will actually gain 46 additional hoursin school over the year, a 4 percent increase over the current year’s student hours.

Caulk noted that Portland already is well above the state requirement that students have a minimum of 175 instructional days a year, and now has boosted student hours even more. “The Portland Public Schools is a leader in the state with this increase in instructional time,” he said.

School Board Chair Sarah Thompson said the district and teachers worked together to reach agreement.

“The board is very grateful for the hard work and commitment by both negotiating teams,” she said. “It was evident during negotiations that both the teachers and board take great pride in being a part of the Portland Public Schools and are committed to working collaboratively. Our teams understood that compromise was crucial during our negotiations and that we be fiscally responsible on behalf of our residents when reaching an agreement.”

Thompson added, “The board values that our teachers are dedicated to the hard work that goes into providing a first class education to our students and knows that their students’ achievement is always their goal. We are honored to have such a wonderful group of people working here in the Portland Public Schools.”

PEA President Suzette Olafsen also underscored how both sides worked together. “Educators showed their overwhelming support for the contract agreement reached between the Portland Education Association and the district, with an 84 percent approval vote yesterday,” she said. “This contract continues our mutual commitment to working collaboratively to improve student achievement while maintaining a competitive compensation package for educators. The district recognizes the often career-long commitment of our highly qualified educators to the children of Portland.”

Olafsen noted that among other features of the contract is “an expansion of the opportunity for educators to achieve National Board Teacher Certification by providing mentors to a cohort of teachers pursuing this distinctive certification next year.”

Data shows a correlation between teachers having this designation and an increase in student achievement.  “Investing in our teachers is an investment in our students,” Caulk said. “Educator effectiveness ensures we have great teachers in every classroom.”