Watertown teachers’ contract still in limbo

By Laura Paine Wicked Local Watertown Posted Mar 04, 2011 @ 04:00 PM WATERTOWN — A month after Watertown teachers ratified a new contract, it remains unsigned and is not likely to be signed at the School Committee meeting next week. The teachers union president has criticized delaying the vote, but committee chairman Tony Paolillo said the contents of the contract – which have not yet been made public – are not behind the delay. “[The contract is] an issue, but it’s the total package,” Paolillo told the Watertown TAB & Press. “It’s a loss of the stimulus money. If it wasn’t that and we weren’t facing a very difficult financial situation, I don’t think the contract would be any issue at all.” Earlier in the budget process, Paolillo said the town would lose about $700,000 in federal stimulus funding this year. Paolillo said the School Committee met on Feb. 28 in executive session to discuss the “detail on the numbers” and see where they are at in the process. He said he’ll update the public on the contract’s status at the March 7 School Committee meeting. “There are a lot of moving parts here from the standpoint of the amount of money we are trying to make up, not just in the teachers contract, but in the rest of the budget,” Paolillo said. The School Committee was originally expected to ratify the contract at the regular meeting on Feb. 10 but instead opted to hold off until the impact of the contract could be discussed with the Town Council. However, that meeting hasn’t happened. “We are doing things differently than we have done them in the past as a part of moving forward in some different directions of better communication,” Town Council President and School Committee member Mark Sideris told the TAB. “The only reason there would be a meeting is to keep the council in the loop. I will say that the council doesn’t have a say in this particular matter.” The WEA and the School Committee reached a tentative agreement on Jan. 25 after negotiations that had gone on since last August and included three sessions with a mediator. The teachers ratified the contract on Feb. 4. WEA President Deb King wrote to the Watertown TAB, saying that delaying the vote was an “almost unprecedented move” and negates “the hard work of the teachers and neglect the importance of putting negotiations behind us.” King did not immediately return calls to comment on the ongoing discussion. The next School Committee meeting is scheduled for March 7 at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers. Laura Paine can be reached at lpaine@wickedlocal.com. Copyright 2011 Watertown TAB. Some rights reserved

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