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Work Must Still Be Done Regarding Westford Teacher Salaries

9:18 p.m. – Clay went onto a discussion on how Westford’s teachers are paid compared to other towns. It will also be discussed at the next School Committee meeting.

Bill Olsen

Bill Olsen

The first cut of analysis is at the average salary level for teacher salaries. There were five different options at looking at other communities and their salaries

#1. Per capita income

#2. Household income

#3. A market basket of comparable communities.

#4. A market basket of regional communities.

#5. Boston Magazine’s ranking.

In Per capita, Westford average salaries trailed by about five percent by about six percent in household income. The regional market basket, salaries trail by four percent. Salaries trail by five percent to regional communities. And in the Boston Magazine ranking, Westford trails by 13 percent.

Generally the third option is used most as the benchmark it seems after discussion with the teachers’ union.

Then there’s a step by step analysis: teachers with a bachelor’s degree (Grade 1 to 14), master’s degree (1 to 14), and so on.

There are some steps were Westford is above the mean, although some are up to 18 percent lower than other towns under the old contract with Westford’s teachers.

As a result of collective bargaining, the goal was to get to the 2014 market basket step averages by 2017. Under the teachers’ collective bargaining agreement, there has been some improvement, although other teachers’ markets are expected to grow by two percent per year.

So there will still be some gap in teacher pay in 2017.

The goal for tonight was for the public to have this information.

Clay then asked if there are any questions.

Kohl asked on the data itself, and noticed that Westford is at the very bottom in what is paid to teachers.

She then talked about more demographics. Harkness asked a question about what Kohl meant, which she answered.

Kohl said that it was particularly hard to find information for the Wachusett Regional School District.

She noted that the performance of other districts was generally higher even though the salaries are also lower.

Clay then answered an e-mail from Hajo Koester about this, and gave his reply. Specifically, that Westford is doing great, but Westford is at a competitive disadvantage.

The question for the town is whether we want to be at a competitive disadvantage and that there is a need to address this soon.

Kohl then gave some history about the 2012 negotiations where the teachers helped the town when it was in dire straits and now it’s an ethical question whether the town will help teachers when they are in dire straits.

She then said that the newest agreement does not seem fair and also mentioned their performance.

Kohl said she doesn’t want to fund things in a kneejerk way, but that this is a value for the town.

Clay thought that the town tried itself best to stay within its financial restraints while closing the gap, but this will continue to be addressed in the future.

He said that if the systemic gap isn’t discussed, it will become a problem over time.

Benoit then made a comment regarding the “2014 levels by 2017” plan.

Ken Mierz, a resident, asked a question whether there would be a reopening of negotiations since this was being discussed.

Clay said that eventually this will need to be talked about with voters.

Harkness said that she was unaware it was this bad and that this eventually will need to be addressed.

Andrew Sylvia of the Westford Template and Westford CAT asked how much teachers fully accepted this latest set of negotiations.

Jason Humphries of the Westford Education Association said that the negotiations were eye opening and positive, but that Westford is still far behind and that teachers are not much better off than the last negotiation.

This negotiation was a prevention of the “jumping off the ship,” but they want to continue working on this, and Clay said the Committee did as well.

Murray said that the negotiation was done within Proposition 2 ½ and asked Humphries what the vote among teachers was for approval of the contract.

Humphries said that it was approximately 90 percent in favor among the teachers.

Clay thanked members of the media for being here, as he hopes there will be a dialog.

Ryan said that work needs to be done to work with the teachers and treat them with respect while also keeping costs down.

9:47 p.m. – Payroll warrants were approved, minutes from past meetings were approved after some amendments from Kohl.

9:50 p.m. – Olsen provided a personnel update. The committee then adjourned to executive session, not to return.