GRCSU merger stymies contract talks


The Greater Rutland County Supervisory Union has reached an agreement with one set of staff, but the teachers in the district still do not have contracts after the merger last year.

The GRCSU announced two weeks ago that they had come to an agreement with support staff that unifies language throughout the union and will last two years. The GRCSU encompasses the school districts of Rutland Town, Ira, Wells Springs, and the Quarry Valley district, which represents Proctor, Poultney and West Rutland.

On April 24, 2019, the GRCSU and member district boards met to approve the contract, which was previously ratified by the GRCSU Education Support Personnel Association.

“We are pleased with the positive collaborative approach that the Support Staff Association has taken in this round of bargaining,” said Superintendent Dr. Debra Taylor.

The agreement spans two years and provides for 3 percent new money for wages each year and unified contract language for all districts in the supervisory union.

This year the Greater Rutland County Supervisory Union began its operation following a complex Act 46 merger process where two supervisory unions merged into one and eight schools merged into four districts.

GRCSU is still in the process of negotiating contracts with teachers, however, and the talks have been going on all year.

“What we have now is two different contracts, one with what was the Rutland Central and one with what was the Rutland Southwest,” Taylor said. “We would like to get them set to the same schedule, which is what we are trying to do in negotiations.”

Right now, teachers are still being paid according to the 2017-2018 contracts, however, the former Rutland Central Supervisory Union gets paid more than the former Rutland Southwest Supervisory Union. According to state law, new hires to the SU are required to be paid under the largest contract.

That means that new teachers at Wells Elementary, Poultney Elementary, Poultney High and Middletown Springs Elementary would be paid more than other teachers in the same building.

April Morse, president of the Greater Rutland County Education Association, said the morale among SU teachers was low.

“The morale is definitely low right now,” she said. “Anytime an employer demonstrates that they do not value you or appreciate your performance, morale is bound to be low. We have quite a few openings in our schools right now. Coincidence?”

Morse said the main sticking point that is holding up negotiations is the language in the master agreement.

“We have language in our Master Agreements that dates back decades. (It’s) hard-fought-for language that we do not want to lose,” Morse said. “The SU seems to think that this merger is a perfect time to start fresh with new contracts and new language.”

Morse contends that was not the intent of Act 46, nor is that how a merger works.

She said their teachers simply want a fair contract where all schools within the SU are on the same Master Agreement receiving the same benefits, working the same number of days, and working under the same expectations.

“We have been without a contract for over 300 days,” Morse said. “We would like to settle, but we are not willing to simply give in to items that will hurt our members in the long run.”

The negotiations continued on Tuesday, May 7, with both sides meeting with a mediator to discuss issues.

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