By Alan Burke
---- — PEABODY — Deuces were wild as the School Committee gave a unanimous OK to a new contract with the city’s teachers, agreeing to three years of consecutive increases of 2 percent, 2 percent and 2 percent.
The agreement includes the year just past, as well as two years to come.
“It’s a fair deal for the taxpayers and a fair deal for the teachers who contribute so much to the education of our kids,” said Mayor Ted Bettencourt.
He noted that the 2 percent increases match agreements made previously with the police and fire unions. The money to pay the higher salaries has already been anticipated in the city’s budget and will not require any new appropriations.
In addition to the teachers, the board agreed to identical increases with AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers, which includes people like clerical workers, custodians and bus drivers.
There were few new wrinkles in the benefit package, the mayor said.
“The benefit changes were largely negotiated last year with changes in health coverage,” he said.
At that time, all city workers agreed to be covered by the statewide Government Insurance Commission, or GIC.
“That saved Peabody about $3 million,” Bettencourt said.
The amount of time teachers must work to gain “longevity increases” was lengthened “slightly” in the new contract, the mayor said. These come every five years and range from $350 to $4,150 after 30 years of teaching in Peabody. Slight increases in stipends for department heads were also approved.
Board member Tom Rossignol noted the work that went into the settlement.
“I’d just like to thank the negotiating team,” he said.
Those on the team included school department lawyer Donald Conn, committee members Dave McGeney, Jarrod Hochman and Dave Charest, with Superintendent Joe Mastrocola and Assistant Superintendent Cara Murtagh helping out.
Mastrocola praised the work of teachers union President Bruce Nelson and his fellow negotiators.
“We met a number of times to come to an understanding of what was at stake ... what we could do to be fiscally responsible to the citizens of Peabody,” he said.
The superintendent stressed the value of rewarding the teachers, “more than half of whom have been with us for ten years or more.”
Nelson, who led the negotiations on behalf of the teachers, could not be reached for comment.
Bettencourt said he got “significantly involved” in the talks over the last few weeks as negotiations neared a successful completion. Goodwill helped bring the two sides together, he indicated.
Mastrocola cited the mayor’s leadership in getting the agreement.
Teachers have already tentatively ratified the agreement, although it will have to be approved a second time due to small changes.
Staff writer Alan Burke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.