Southwest Vermont Education Strike Central
SCHOOL'S ON! TEACHERS, BOARDS APPROVE TENTATIVE AGREEMENT THAT ENDS STRIKE AFTER NINE DAYS!
Bennington area teachers will return to the classroom Tuesday morning after they and the boards for the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union reached a tentative agreement, ending a nine-day strike.
The deal still requires formal ratification by teachers and the district’s boards, but classes will begin on schedule for the first time since Oct. 19.
The three-year deal, which begins retroactively to July 1, includes work rules the boards were seeking; modest raises that reflect the salary schedule in the contract that expired nearly 500 days ago; and concessions on the cost of health insurance.
“As the men and women who teach the communities children, we are excited to be where we’ve always wanted to be – in the classroom,” said Stephannie Peters, president of the Southwestern Vermont Education Association, the union representing more than 311 teachers. “We are ready to go back to school tomorrow. “
Union members gave unanimous tentative approval to the deal Monday evening, and the boards, several hours later, followed suit. Both sides will formally ratify the pacts in the coming week, officials said.
Despite the sometimes acrimonious nature of the talks over the length of the strike, it was settled the old-fashioned way: through talking, negotiating, giving and taking, without the interference of statewide officials, some of whom inserted themselves into the local dispute. The boards and the teachers worked through their differences, and, after more than 100 hours of talks, arrived at a compromise that was acceptable to both sides.
Monday brought encouragement for teachers from far and wide. Joyce Powell, a member of the National Education Association executive committee and the past president of the New Jersey Education Association, pumped up the teachers in the morning, reminding them that they are not alone. “You have the backing of 3.2 million NEA members who support you and your cause,” she told them at a rally.
Vermont-NEA President Martha Allen, who, with Powell, walked picket lines throughout the day, was proud of Bennington teachers for their principled stance. “All 12,000 of your fellow members are behind you,” she told them. “I am proud of what you accomplished, for yourselves, your communities, your profession and your union.”
Teachers went on strike October 19 after nearly 15 months without a contract. “In the end, we and the boards were able to compromise in a way that produced a contract that is fair to us, fair to the community and good for our schools,” Peters said. “We are gratified by the enormous outpouring of support from the community and thank parents for their patience. We look forward to walking into our schools tomorrow morning.”
You aren't alone: Words of Support from All Over
SWVEA members thank everyone for their support during our strike. We appreciate the residents, parents, businesses and students who let us know how much they value public education, and we are excited to return to our classrooms. Students: get some sleep! School's back in session!
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