SALEM — Contract negotiations that dragged on for almost two years between the city and schoolteachers finally concluded last night.
The School Committee unanimously approved a three-year collective bargaining agreement that was ratified earlier this month by the Salem Teachers Union, which represents about 500 public school teachers.
It includes nearly a 6 percent pay hike over the life of the contract, which is similar to raises given to other city unions.
However, it does not address what Mayor Kim Driscoll had identified as a key contract goal: extending the teachers’ work day by about an hour to help turn around what the state has designated an “underperforming” school district.
“It definitely still is a goal and key objective,” Driscoll said of the longer day. “I think we (now) want to approach it in a targeted and strategic way.”
After failing to resolve the issue through talks, school officials hope to extend or change schedules at one or two schools next school year.
The mayor conceded that contract talks may not be the best way to add more time to the school day, and that it may be better to work out solutions school by school.
While failing to reach an agreement, a top union official hinted that the idea is not necessarily dead.
“We did talk about it a lot ...” said Joyce Harrington, president of the Salem Teachers Union. “We want to make sure it’s well-planned, and we want students and staff to be successful. ... It may, I’m sure, be a topic that we will revisit.”
The teacher contract talks were not only long, but complex. The two sides, for example, had to hammer out a separate agreement for Bentley Elementary School, which the state designated a Level 4 school in 2011 based, in part, on low scores in statewide tests.