By Meghan Foley Sentinel Staff
SWANZEY CENTER — The Monadnock Regional School Board will ask the teachers union to reopen contract negotiations amid an ongoing dispute over health insurance payments.
Meanwhile, the teachers union, along with the unions representing the district’s support staff and specialists, announced Tuesday night the three groups have taken a no-confidence vote in the district’s administration.
The administration is led by Superintendent Leo P. Corriveau, who plans to retire Jan. 2, 2015, instead of staying through the 2014-15 school year, which he had initially wanted to do.
Corriveau, 65, cited his desire to focus more on his health and family as reasons for his retirement after 43 years in education.
The school board accepted his resignation Tuesday night.
“I think I speak for all of us, Leo, that it is with great sadness that we receive your resignation,” board Chairman Richard H. Thackston 3rd of Troy said. “We look forward to the next several months working with you.”
Corriveau, who was hired as superintendent in 2012, attached a list of accomplishments and honors Monadnock had received during his tenure, which Thackston read aloud at the meeting.
The announcement of Corriveau’s departure comes during a time when Monadnock officials have been dealing with one crisis after another.
One of those, how the school district funds its portion of the teachers’ health insurance pool, appeared to have been addressed last month, but it came back Tuesday night, at Vice Chairman James I. Carnie’s insistence. Carnie, of Richmond, said the situation hadn’t been settled properly.
The pool pays for most of the teachers’ medical insurance; the rest comes from out-of-pocket contributions from the teachers.
The board held an emergency meeting May 27 where it voted to set the amount the district contributes to the teachers’ health insurance pool to a number lower than what was outlined in the teachers contract. It also stopped unused money from the pool from going toward reducing teachers’ insurance premiums for the next year.
The teachers union disputed the board’s vote, saying the board was unilaterally changing the voter-approved contract.
The school board disagreed, saying it acted within the scope of the contract.
A week later, on June 3, the board opted to rescind the vote, and change the membership on the school district’s negotiating committee.
Nowhere in the teachers contract does it say how much the district should contribute to the insurance pool each year of the contract after the first year, Carnie said Tuesday night.
“The first paragraph clearly states the district should budget $2.3 million for the first year of the agreement. That’s all it says,” he said.
Farther down in the contract, it does say that for each year after 2012-13 the district would fund the pool at either the insurance provider’s guaranteed maximum rate, or at a 5 percent increase from the year before, whichever is less.
“I think the public has a right to know exactly how much this district claims to fund,” he said.
He then moved to set the district’s contribution to the fund for the 2013-14 school year at $2.1 million, less than the $2.4 million the teachers have said was budgeted.
Several school board members objected, and Carnie’s motion was ultimately called out of order since the board had voted June 3 not to reconsider the contract until contract negotiations began again.
School board member Betty Tatro of Swanzey then moved to instruct the negotiating team to approach the teachers union to reopen negotiations to address the issue with the health insurance funding.
Before the board approved the motion, Carnie asked anyone with a conflict of interest to recuse him or herself. Thackston asked what he defined as a conflict of interest.
“Anyone who receives health care,” Carnie said.
“I think that is irrelevant,” Thackston said.
Roughly 60 people attended the school board meeting in the auditorium of Monadnock Regional Middle/High School, much fewer than the more than 300 people who came to the last meeting on June 17.
At that meeting, parents, teachers and community members aired everything they believe is wrong or has gone wrong in the district over the past year.
They also supported a community group’s resolution supporting transparency and community collaboration in how the schools in the district operate.
The group, Monadnock United, is composed of more than 100 parents, community members and Monadnock employees.
The school board Tuesday night approved sending the resolution, which is a legally binding document, to the school district’s lawyer for review.
Leaders of the teachers, support staff and specialist unions told school board officials Tuesday night the no-confidence vote was taken June 16, and that they had tried to meet with the district’s administrators in private to discuss the vote. However, the administrators declined, and decided to involve the school district’s attorney, they said.
The vote came about after employees approached their union leaders on their concerns about the quality of education in the district’s schools, and about the district’s future.
“It is important for us to share this information with the board in a timely manner, so that they will have time to address it before the next school year begins. We have a duty to share the employees’ perspective with both the administration and the board,” Diane Harty, co-president of the specialists union, said.
The unions have asked to meet with the school board in a nonpublic session to discuss the vote. School board officials said they would consider the request and respond.