School district, teachers in arbitration over contract

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
Jan. 25, 2008

NORTH BRANFORD — The school district and the North Branford Federation of Teachers have been unable to reach an agreement on a new contract and are in arbitration, Superintendent Robert Wolfe said this week.

The teachers’ contract expires June 30. Wolfe said that the parties have been in negotiations over a new contract for about a year.

Phil Palma, the president of the North Branford Federation of Teachers, declined to comment.

Wolfe said he cannot discuss specific differences between the school district’s and the union’s contract proposals.

“There’s a fair number of unresolved issues,” he said. “In most contracts, the major issues are salary and benefits.”

The two sides held a mediation session with a state Department of Education mediator Dec. 12.

When they were unable to reach an agreement, the mediator declared an impasse, “which then sends it back to the state and puts us into a cycle for arbitration,” Wolfe said.

In arbitration, the two sides and the Department of Education each appoint an arbitrator to represent them. One arbitration meeting has already been held, and a second is scheduled for Monday.

“As you go into arbitration, both sides are going to present their last best offers and then on each issue the arbitrators make a decision as to which one they’re going to grant,” Wolfe said.

He added that, although there has been no formal agreement, he believes both sides are looking to approve a three-year contract beginning July 1. The current contract went into effect July 1, 2005.

After the arbitrators settle on an award and file it with the town clerk, the Town Council will have 25 days to approve or reject it, Wolfe said.

If the council rejects the award, it goes to another arbitrator.

The three-year contract that ends June 30 does not include annual percentage-based salary increases for teachers, but sets out a schedule for raises. For the 2005-06 school year, teachers earned a range of $35,566 to $73,922. That increased to a range of $37,111 to $77,134 for this school year, based on college degrees and experience with the school district.

The Board of Education also pays about 85 percent of health care benefits and teachers pay about 15 percent, according to the contract agreement.

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