SALEM — School officials and the teachers union have reached an agreement to extend work hours and create a longer year for some teachers at Bentley Elementary School, resolving one of the last major components of a controversial plan to allow an outside contractor to turn around the under-performing elementary school.
The extended day and year will only affect teachers in grades 3-5, who will now start Aug. 7 and work a total of 205 days. That half of the school will be run by the private school management firm Blueprint Schools Network next year, although the expectation is the entire school will become a charter school for the 2015-2016 year.
According to the contract approved by the School Committee Monday night, teachers will be paid a $5,000 stipend for working an extra two weeks and one more hour per day. Mentor, lead and senior teachers will receive further stipends of $1,000 to $2,000, and there’s also a provision for substitute teachers, which the union strongly argued to retain.
Teachers in the upper grades will be asked to reapply for their jobs, but any staff member with professional status who isn’t hired will be offered a position elsewhere in the school system, according to officials.
Committee member James Fleming, who was on the negotiating team, said the deal came after more than a month of talks and represented concessions for all interested parties: the district, union and Blueprint. The contract, however, is just between the school board and the union.
Union president Joyce Harrington, who sat in the audience Monday, didn’t comment publicly on the contract but spoke later in the meeting about another matter. The vote was 5-2 in favor, with only Fleming and fellow committeeman Brendan Walsh in opposition.
“I don’t believe this was the negotiation of a contract; I believe this is the negotiation of a surrender,” said Walsh, criticizing the fact that both sides only had 30 days in which to negotiate. He suggested it was tantamount to “union busting.” If both sides were unable to strike a deal in 30 days, it would have gone to a three-person state panel for resolution.