The School Committee has proposed a set of benefits for new, independent employees — benefits that present a number of differences from those received by current independent employees.
The proposal was drafted by committee Chair Joel Blumstein and Director of Human Resources Candace Hall.
The benefits would apply to non-union school employees hired on or after July 1 of this year.
"What we are trying to balance in benefits for new employees is being fiscally responsible on one hand, but (we're) also having a benefits package that will allow us to recruit and retain top-quality employees," Blumstein said.
The proposal for new employees does not include longevity pay, a benefit enjoyed by current independent employees. Blumstein said current employees essentially receive a bonus after a certain number of years of tenure through longevity.
"I think the omission of longevity is very much in keeping contracts that are being offered to new town and school non-union employees," Hall said. "Unionized employees have been very used to longevity schedules in their contracts, but for non-union I think the trend really is to eliminate longevity."
The number of sick days an employee can "buy back" upon retirement is also proposed to be significantly reduced for new employees.
Employees who retire from the school system at 55 or older would receive retirement benefits in the form of sick leave buy-back. Upon retirement, the district will “buy back” up to a certain amount of the employee’s unused sick leave, based on the employee’s years of service in Andover.
Blumstein said current employees can have the school system buy back up to 120 days of sick time after 25 years of employment. Under the proposal, new school employees would match what town employees receive for buy-backs, which is up to 25 days after 24-plus years of employment in Andover public schools.
Blumstein said current employees receive a floating holiday in lieu of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Good Friday being paid holidays. That is not being proposed for new employees.
Similarly, current employees receive a holiday for the Friday following a Thursday holiday when school is not in session, which is also not being extended to new employees in the proposal.
The proposal has left members of the committee seeking an explanation items, and even questioning the legality of some.
One of the items that will undergo further review is whether new, non-union employees will be able to join the sick bank. The sick bank allows union employees to donate some of their sick leave, assisting other employees who expect to be out for an extended period of time but have used up all of their sick leave. Those employees could make a request to the sick leave bank.
"Because the employees are not part of the union, the provision in there talks about them joining the sick bank formed by the administrators union," Blumstein said. "We are looking into whether we can do that, and if we think it's an appropriate thing to do."
School Committee member Susan McCready questioned if there were any legal ramifications with having a non-collective bargaining employee in a collective bargaining sick bank. She said labor counsel has indicated in the past that such a practice is illegal.
"We shouldn't be passing anything that's illegal," said committee member Tracey Spruce.
Another question Blumstein said will undergo further review is whether new employees who work extra hours will receive overtime pay, or have the option to receive compensatory time.
Blumstein said revisions to the proposal will be made based on comments from the committee, and a new draft will be presented with the hope of a vote of approval at a committee meeting in early September.