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.