By Paul Myers
exeter – After almost a year-long battle, mediation and vented frustrations, the Exeter Teachers Association (ETA) and the Exeter Unified School District (EUSD) have come to a salary agreement for the next two years. Despite months of negotiating between a 4% and 5% salary increase, the ETA and EUSD agreed to increase salaries by 4% for the 2016-2017 school year, and 2% by the 2017-2018 school year.
The agreement was months in the making. After agreeing to health benefits and an increased daily rate, teachers fought for a one percent salary increase above what the District was offering. According to EUSD superintendent Tim Hire, teachers pay $48 out of pocket for a monthly health care plan that is worth $1,218. He added that the cost of plans increased by $40 per month and the District absorbed the cost. Hire also noted that the daily rate was increased from $150 per day for attending workshops and other instruction related seminars to $200 for the 2016-2017 school year and then increase, to $225 for the 2017-2018 school year, and then increase once more to $250 the following year.
Contract negotiations eventually stalled last December when the District offered a 4% salary increase, countering the ETA’s request for 5%. After slow progress in mediation meetings, teachers addressed the school board at their Feb. 8 meeting and conveyed that teachers were leaving the district for higher paying jobs, which would ultimately impact the students.
Alicia Bovetti, first grade teacher at Rocky Hill School was born and raised in Exeter and loves her job. “I get a lot out of my job but I put a lot into it and I’m teaching under a Board that undervalues me. Teachers deserve to be paid a fair wage for all they do.”
Aside from pay, teachers like former major league pitcher Adam Pettyjohn are concerned with the opportunity it means for students.
“I found success in a career in baseball through a foundation of teachers and coaches in Exeter. Our kids may miss the opportunity to have the same chances I had.”
And for other teachers, they wanted to make sure that a well stocked tapestry of educators is left behind when present teachers move on to retirement. Case in point, Kathy Logan said she has a “heart for Exeter” and was “grateful” to be employed here but wants to make sure to leave behind a legacy of good teachers when she is gone. She suggested moving negotiations earlier in the school year prior to budget discussions, so that the budget can reflect any changes in salary that might be made.
“What we are experiencing now is not good for anyone. It’s not good for you, us or the kids,” Logan told the school board in February.
Now with contract negotiations settled teachers will reopen salary and benefits discussions in two years.