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4 percent raise would mean layoffs for Watertown teachers

4 percent raise would mean layoffs for Watertown teachers

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Published by Laura Maas

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Published by: Laura Maas on Mar 25, 2011
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4 percent raise would mean layoffs for Watertown teachers
 By Laura Paine / Staff Writer
 Wicked Local WatertownPosted Mar 08, 2011 @ 04:57 PMLast update Mar 10, 2011 @ 11:19 AM WATERTOWN — The proposed teachers’ contract would give educators a 4 percent raise over threeyears, which could lead to 15 to 35 layoffs throughout the school system. But while the teachers are finewith that, the town has had second thoughts.“These are the most difficult financial times we have faced in this community and this nation for many years,” School Committee Chair Tony Paolillo said at a meeting Monday. “This financial crisisthat we are facing could inflict significant and long-term damage to this school district. The magnitude of the budget shortfall we are facing has led the Watertown School Committee to defer a vote on the[contract].”Before a standing-room only crowd that included many teachers, Paolillo described why the SchoolCommittee hasn’t voted on the contract. The school department currently faces a $1.8 million deficit,Paolillo said, and contract’s proposed raises would account for about $287,000 of that. The town also isalready under contract to pay $504,000 in step increases under the existing contract.Negotiating teams for both sides approved a Memorandum of Agreement laying out the proposedcontract in January and it was approved by the teachers’ union in early February. Since then, the SchoolCommittee has held off on voting while they and the Town Council wait for more information about thetown’s finances, Paolillo said.The town is not getting $500,000 in federal aid this year that it’s received in the past, and Paolilloasked for the support and help of the teachers and the community.“We have done this in the past, but the scale of the challenge this year is beyond what we have facedin previous years,” he said. “At this time the possibility of significant program reductions and the loss of 15 to 35 staff positions are very real. It’s because of the potential educational impact of these budgetscenarios and current fiscal uncertainty that the School Committee has deferred a vote [on the contract].”Watertown Educators Association President Debra King told the Watertown TAB & Press that theSchool Committee was well aware of the numbers before they agreed to the “modest” contract.“Watertown teachers' salaries lag behind neighboring communities,” King said. “This deal doesnothing to improve this reality. We agreed to a 0 percent this year. This is about good faith. It's abouthonoring an agreement. The school committee must immediately ratify the agreement so that we may putnegotiations behind us for the good of our schools.”The School Committee and the Town Council met in executive session on March 9 to discuss thecontract and collective bargaining strategy. Councilor Angie Kounelis said the contract would affect howTown Manager Michael Driscoll funds other town departments for the next year.“It not only impacts education, it impacts the entire budget,” Kounelis said. “The town manager hasto present a balanced budget to the council.”But teachers at Monday’s meeting said that the delay is both disappointing and teaching Watertownstudents the wrong lesson.“As a teacher I strive to model for the students how to be a responsible, respectful and honorablemember of the Watertown community,” Watertown High School teacher Jill Zeikel told the SchoolCommittee. “I do this by showing respect to all, demonstrating what it means to follow through oncommitments and agreements and maintain a strong sense of integrity. It would be nice if the committeemirrored the behavior that is asked not only of the teachers but also what we ask and expect of our students.”Hugh McLaughlin, an aide at Watertown High School, thanked the school board for showing himsome of the numbers because the communication is helpful to know the magnitude of the challenges, buthe still needs a little bit more.“I hope to convince you it is not all about money,” McLaughlin said. “Watertown Public employeeshave saved the town money by getting their health insurance through the GIC; a nice easy thing toconvey to the taxpayers rather than vilify them. Our teachers have stepped up to the plate. I feel that my1

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