Andover teachers have approved a contract, paving the way for a new agreement for the first time in 96 weeks.
Teachers ratified a new three-year contract deal with a 280-83 vote Tuesday at Doherty Middle School's Memorial Auditorium. The vote came nearly a week after bargaining teams representing Andover's teachers and the School Committee reached a tentative agreement just days following a state-authored "fact-finders" report that criticized teachers for supporting a high school schedule that had them covering duties rather than teaching. The new deal, if ratified by the School Committee at its meeting tomorrow morning, will be effective from the beginning of this past school year to Aug. 31, 2014.
School Committee Chairwoman Paula Colby-Clements and Andover Education Association President Kerry Costello both declined to provide further details on the contract, including what high school teaching model it contains, pending School Committee ratification.
"It's the closing of one chapter and the opening of another," said Costello. "The membership has spoken. As president, I will carry the mandate forward."
The affirmative vote tops a busy week for the School Committee and the town's teachers union, which started last Tuesday with a seven-hour bargaining session ending with a tentative contract deal early Wednesday morning, after Townsman deadline. Thursday saw the passage of all of the high school's self-study accreditation reports, despite an effort by a small group of teachers to block them in what teacher Jen Meagher described in an email to other teachers as "the only leverage we have left at the bargaining table" (see related story).
The School Committee's bargaining team expects to recommend to the full School Committee that it ratify the contract, Colby-Clements said.
"This has been a very long and difficult process for everybody — for the community, for the teachers, for the administration, for the committee," said Colby-Clements. "At this point, I think the School Committee is feeling relieved of the work, that the teachers have ratified it, and I'm happy that we can go into the school year next year with a contract in place."
The two sides will issue a joint statement on the new contract Friday if the School Committee approves it, at which point terms of the deal will be made public, Costello and Colby-Clements said.
The contract does not cover the 2010-2011 academic year, during which teachers worked under the terms of their expired contract.
"There's nothing that prevents you from having a year that is just lapsed," said Colby-Clements. "The law doesn't require successive contracts to go back. We just decided to agree to a contract that took us three years and dated us back to the beginning of the school year."
With the contract expected to be agreed to tomorrow, Friday, Costello said the next steps involve bringing together the School Committee and teachers union to repair the damage that contract talks have done over the last two years.
"There's going to have to be a significant rebuilding of relationships before I can see any way of moving forward," said Costello.
Colby-Clements saw the same need, but felt it was better to focus for now on the deal's passage.
"We're still raw from the negotiations, and we don't want to put the cart ahead of the horse in terms of trying to talk about how we move forward," said Colby-Clements. "But I hope we'll do things to help the district heal."