WALLINGFORD — Since the Town Council did not take any action at the Tuesday night meeting regarding the new three-year teacher contract, the contract passed and will go into effect for the upcoming school year.
The 2023-2026 contract between the Wallingford Board of Education and the Wallingford Education Association (WEA) will go into effect Sept. 1, 2023 and end Aug. 31, 2026.
“Members were happy,” said Anne Varrone-Lederle, president of WEA. “We approved (the contract) overwhelmingly.”
Varrone-Lederle explained that there are three different types of teachers in the district — teachers who have a bachelor’s degree, teachers who have a master’s degree and teachers who are pursuing a sixth-year degree. All teachers are going through the salary schedule, working to get to the next step of it every year, until they reach the last step of the salary schedule.
Through this new contract, teachers who are on the step schedule are going to receive a 1.75% general wage increase each year for the three years of the contract. In this contract, for the first time, teachers who have reached the last step are also going to get an annual general wage increase of 2.5%.
“You want to take care of every teacher at every level,” Varrone-Lederle said. “... Remembering to reward them for staying, reward them for doing their work, getting the extra degree.” Increased cost of living
Varrone-Lederle said this wage increase was the largest they’ve had in several contracts, which was important to members of WEA due to the increased cost of living.
At the Tuesday night Town Council meeting, Superintendent of Schools Danielle Bellizzi, Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Francis Thompson and Board of Education Chairperson Tammy Raccio presented the highlights of the contract.
Thompson shared with the council the negotiated insurance payments will include a deductible in the third year of $2,500 for a single person and $5,000 for family. There will also be a 21.5% premium cost share for each year of the three-year contract.
The number of sick days in the sick bank process increased from 30 days to 45 days.
“The sick bank is for any type of catastrophic illness that is brought to the executive board of the membership and from that they would solicit to their members to see who would like to give some of their sick time up to 45 days,” Thompson said. “... Once it’s brought to the union leadership, then it’s brought to my office so that we have a conversation about the nature of the request and it’s not a budgetary implication in that those sick days are already allocated to the membership.”
Along with those aspects of the contract, Thompson shared they updated the pay amount for summer school to $50 an hour. In the previous contract for the third year the pay was $35.90 an hour.
“Clarifying language was included in the professional development, evening events, capstone assessments, graduate studies and stipends for middle schools and music sections,” Raccio said via email to the Record-Journal.‘Particularly sweet’
Varrone-Lederle said this contract was one of the best she’s seen while being on the negotiation team.
“I loved all of them, but this one was particularly sweet,” Varrone-Lederle said.
The negotiation team for the union consisted of WEA officers and teacher representatives from all school levels — elementary, middle and high. WEA has 595 members.
“We met for several sessions, even before we sat down with the board to go over our priorities,” Varrone-Lederle said. “Of course we surveyed all of our members to see what issues were important to them.”
Varrone-Lederle said the negotiation team went to negotiation training at the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) conference over the summer.
“We worked, we discussed, we emailed and put our package together, our initial package together, for the board,” Varrone-Lederle said.
Then, the WEA representatives sat down with the superintendent’s team and members of the Board of Education. The board was represented by Raccio, Michael Votto and Marla Roscoe.
“We were pleased with the collegial, professional discussion that we had,” Varrone-Lederle said. “... We do like to work together to make the best district that we can.”