The Strafford School Board failed to reach agreement on a new teacher contract because it negotiated in bad faith, according to leaders of the Strafford Education Association/NEA-NH. Today in Concord, the Association filed an unfair labor practice charge against the board with the NH Public Employee Labor Relations Board in Concord.
“We regret that it came to this, but Chairman Monahan’s illegal behavior could end up hurting our entire school,” said Association Co-President Audrey Dolan. “For the first time in anyone’s memory, it’s possible that we’ll go two years in a row without a contract. We’re asking for the community’s help to prevent that from happening.”
“If we’re serious about the future of our students, we need to do what works,” added Association Co-President Jason Trafton. “The board should start by following the law, instead of dictating our working conditions and the way negotiations are conducted.”
The Association charges that in December 2015, the Board bargained in bad faith by refusing to meet face-to-face with Association negotiators, and for refusing to negotiate at times agreeable to both the Association and the School Board. Trafton and Dolan note that Chairman Monahan violated the law when negotiations began in the fall of 2014 also. At that time, Monahan refused to read proposals from the Association unless they were presented in a specific format. The Association did not file a charge at the time in hopes that an agreement could be reached despite the Board’s illegal behavior.
The collective bargaining agreement for Strafford School’s forty one teachers and fifteen paraprofessionals expired in June 2015. The parties met three times last fall before the Board declared impasse in December. A mediator assisted with negotiations on January 11, but an agreement was not reached. If an agreement is not reached before February 8, it is likely that no new agreement will be reached before the 2017-18 school year.
Strafford educators are deeply committed to the success of every child. “Contract or not, we are here to make sure our students get the best education possible,” says Dolan. “We have great experienced and newer teachers in our school. I fear that the newer ones, those with the lowest pay and college debt, will look for jobs elsewhere if we can’t reach a settlement. We don’t want Strafford kids to have a revolving door school.”
On January 12, the Strafford Education Association gave the board a proposal that would save $60,000 in medical insurance costs and cost the town about $0.10 on the tax rate. The School Board has not responded, but the Association remains hopeful that the board will accept its proposal.