SHIRLEY -- With negotiations between the Ayer-Shirley Regional School Committee and the Ayer-Shirley Regional Education Association Inc. successfully completed, the committee at its meeting Tuesday ratified a three-year contract the teachers had already approved, finalizing a collective-bargaining process that began last spring.
The two organizations took a different approach this year called interest-based bargaining, Chairman Patrick Kelly said. Rather than proposals on one side versus responses on the other, the two parties got together in a room with a list of issues each wanted to address and discussed solutions, he explained.
"It was a lengthy process," that the negotiating team went through training to learn, Kelly said. "We started in May."
Now there's an agreement nobody's completely happy with but one that both sides compromised to reach, so in the committee's view, the end result was worth the effort.
"The big challenge was to make it sustainable for the community and the district" and it took time to get there, Kelly said. "No issue was resolved until consensus was reached in the room."
Team member Joyce Reischutz agreed it was a long, sometimes arduous process, but in the end it paid off. "It was a bit stiff at first," she said, but as talks progressed, people spoke more candidly. "It's a compromise," she said of the agreement, with 35 articles laid out in a multipage document now available to the public.
With $9.1 million targeted for teacher's salaries in this year's budget, the amount is about two percent over last year, Kelly said.
Using a new salary schedule that does not include cost-of-living increases, the contract gives teachers "approximately" a two percent raise for each of the three years, he said, noting that raises are based on length of employment and position on the salary scale, so not every teacher's pay will increase.
Kelly presented good news on the high-school building project. With construction underway, the project is on time and on budget, he said, noting that the steel frame on the new academic wing is going up and bids have gone out for the next phase.