Returning Teachers See Salaries Rise
By Amanda Burke
FITCHBURG -- District teachers agreed to forgo a cost-of-living increase this year to fund a new salary step for its longest serving teachers.
But all returning teachers saw their salaries rise this year over last year under the terms of the new three-year contract, according to Rick Zeena, administrator of human resources for the Fitchburg School District.
“We created that new step in order to be more competitive, and to bring our longest serving teachers up to market rate,” he said.
Salary adjustments included in the new teachers’ contract with the Fitchburg Education Association represent an about $1 million increase in the budget over last year, according to Zeena.
The new salary step is for teachers who worked in the district continually for at least 8 years. Zeena said 277 of the 449 employees covered by the teachers union have reached step 8.
According to a memorandum of agreement the School Committee ratified this month, step 8 teachers received a three percent raise this year.
As was the case under the union’s previous three-year contract, teachers are eligible to earn up to $3,000 in longevity payments annually, he said.
While district teachers did not receive a cost-of-living increase this year, returning teachers received raises for moving up a step in the district’s wage schedule.
For salary teachers who worked up to seven years for the district (steps 0 through 7), the wage schedule this year includes an average raises of 5.7 percent, according to Zeena.
On top of their step raises, teachers will receive a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment next July and in July 2020, according to the agreement.
“In effect, they [teachers in steps 0 to 7] will be receiving north of (a) 7.5 percent” salary increase in 2019 and 2020, he said.
Health insurance negotiations are held at the city level, said Zeena, who added that the same contractual insurance benefits remain in place.
The average salary for a Fitchburg Public Schools Teacher is $69,505, according to Zeena.
The agreement with the arm of the Fitchburg Education Association that covers teachers came just over three weeks after over 100 union members protested outside Memorial Middle School.
Fitchburg Education Association President Adam Cordio said majority of teachers union members voted in favor of the agreement, saying “we got what we all deserved in terms of language and remuneration.”
“Obviously we’re pleased, we wouldn’t have walked away from the table and sent it to ratification if we weren’t pleased,” he said.
Mayor Stephen DiNatale said the district and the union made concessions and to reach the final three-year agreement.
“The discussion was open, frank and certainly civil,” he said.
School Committee Vice Chair Peter Stephens is a member of the team that negotiated with the Fitchburg Education Association.
He said the School Committee may vote on contracts for administrators, secretaries, nurses and nutrition managers at its next meeting, which is scheduled for Oct. 1.
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