The Amherst Education Association is troubled that the Amherst School Board has chosen to conduct negotiations through the media and press releases rather than face-to-face — something the AEA believes to be counterproductive and not in the best interests of teachers, the school district, or the community.
Reluctantly, the AEA feels compelled to respond to the three specific points addressed in the Board’s press release: JY Insurance, Reduction In Force, and the 175-Day School Calendar.
The AEA believes the most effective way to address health care cost increases would have been to shop for alternative insurance carriers. Eliminating the JY insurance plan was projected to save approximately one-tenth of one percent (.001) on the proposed 2014 budget. Although the AEA suggested on several occasions that the Board seek bids from other health insurance carriers, the Board would not entertain this option, which the AEA believes could produce significant savings for teachers and taxpayers alike.
Reduction In Force:
The AEA is not opposed to teacher performance being included as a factor in layoffs (reduction in force), but asked that performance be determined using criteria that could be objectively measured and assessed. The Board did not provide one single objectively measurable teacher performance criterion.
175-Day School Calendar:
A 175-day calendar was considered by the AEA. Despite teacher concerns over the lack of any specific schedule detailing how the additional time in the school day would be utilized and concerns over the educational impact, teachers were willing to implement the untested idea of the 175-day calendar on a trial basis at no cost to the district. It should be noted that the SAU’s projections show implementation of the 175 day calendar to be more costly than remaining with the traditional 180-day calendar used by almost all NH school districts.
Amherst’s teachers recognize that increases in costs to health insurance, pension costs downshifted to cities and towns by the NH Legislature, and a significant reduction in state education aid are a part of the economic landscape that influence these negotiations. In recognition of these external financial pressures, the AEA proposed a contract settlement that would have led to a reduction in take-home pay for many educators without impacting the quality of education provided to our students. The AEA remains deeply committed to the success of every child and to settling a fair contract.
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The Amherst Education Association represents Amherst School District Teachers at Clark, Wilkins, and Amherst Middle School, covering grades PreK through 8.