Amherst teachers, board still at impasse

MILFORD – A media­tion session earlier this month failed to settle contract negotiations be­tween the Amherst School Board and the teachers union.

The Amherst Education Association and school board had an all-day ses­sion on Jan. 5, when a facilitator tried unsuc­cessfully to "nudge both sides" toward an agree­ment, union President Larry Ballard said in a phone interview.

Impasse was declared last November, when the two sides couldn’t agree on health insurance, re­tirement incentives and pay for summer work.

The board is offering no pay raise and wants to in­crease the amount teach­ers pay for health insur­ance. Current premium coverage ranges between 92 and 87 percent.

At the budget hear­ing last week, the School Board was backed by the district’s Ways and Means Committee.

Committee Chairwoman Stephanie Grund said the schools’ cost per pupil of $18,126 is well above that of comparable districts in the area, which she at­tributed to Amherst’s high average teacher pay and generous benefits.

"Structural issues must be addressed," she said, including automatic step increases. "They are defi­nitely starting to impact other worthwhile initia­tives" in the elementary and middle school.

Talks will resume again in the fall, which means teachers, who are now in the second year of a two-year contract, will be working without a contract beginning June 30, when the contract ex­pires.

Lack of a contract will mainly affect teachers who receive step increas­es, Ballard said.

This is the second time in six years that an agree­ment wasn’t reached be­fore the budget submis­sion deadline.