School contract negotiators report ‘progress’ and change in tone during Sept. 11 session

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From left, school committee negotiation team members Kate Derochers, Jimmy Lehoux, Rich Girard and Sarah Ambrogi, field questions from the board during a special BOSC meeting on April 22, 2019. FILE PHOTO/MPTV

MANCHESTER, NH  –  The Manchester Board of School Committee’s Special Committee on Negotiations and the Manchester Education Association’s Negotiations Committee met for nearly three hours on September 11, 2019.  MEA President Sue Hannan and Negotiations Committee Chairman Rich Girard both characterized the talks as “constructive.”  

Hannan

As part of the bargaining ground rules they revised after talks resumed in July, the teams agreed to release proposals presented and or discussed during their sessions.  In a joint statement released by Hannan and Girard, it was disclosed that school negotiators made new proposals regarding sick and personal time. There was also discussion about the salary and health insurance proposals made by school negotiators in August.  General dialogue was also ha over the financial constraints within which the negotiations and the resulting impact on salary and benefits proposals.

School negotiators granted a request from the MEA to delay the release of the board’s proposal on sick and personal time.  Girard said the request was agreed to because the information had only been provided to the MEA on the morning of the meeting and the MEA needed more time to review the proposal.  Girard also said that because most of the meeting had centered on clearing the air, correcting misunderstandings and addressing the tone between the two parties, all with the purpose of changing the approach to the talks, discussion on the committee’s proposal didn’t get into its substance.  He said it would be released at a future point.

Both sides expressed that they were encouraged by the meeting’s positive and respectful atmosphere. 

Girard

“I think we succeeded in resetting the stage for these negotiations to move forward,” said Girard.  “Their recognition of the work we’ve done to address their requests within the budget was appreciated.  They seemed to take to heart that we understand where we’re coming from and that we’re doing everything we can, and then some, to move the district forward.  I am cautiously optimistic that we’re on good footing now.”

Hannan stated that the tenor of the meeting was much improved from recent meetings and that the MEA appreciated the efforts of both sides expressing their honest views.  “We have committed that in going forward the focus will be on the promise to listen to each other, in a deliberate atmosphere of respect and understanding. A tremendous amount of work from both teams has been done to date and we are hopeful that in future meetings we can move toward a fair and equitable resolution for Manchester educators,” said Hannan.

Another meeting is set for September 25, 2019.  The MEA committed to sending questions and concerns with the committee’s recent proposals ahead of time so that school negotiators can have the answers ready for that meeting in the hope that real progress can be made on these important issues.