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City Teachers, School Board Ratify Contract
Raises To Vary According To Years Of Service; Staff Will Pay More Toward Health Costs

January 19, 2005
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB, Courant Staff Writer

The Hartford teachers' union and the school board have ratified a three-year contract for teachers that eliminates the costly and unusual benefits of Lasik eye surgery, breast implant removal and sex change operations, and gives teachers modest raises each year.

Teachers also agreed to eliminate coverage for Rogaine to treat hair loss and Nicorette gum to help quit smoking.

Cathy Carpino, president of the union, said she does not know when some of the unusual health benefits were added to the teachers' contracts. She said she and the teachers gave them up to in order to preserve the Anthem Blue Cross plan and to limit increases in employee contributions for health insurance to 1 percentage point each year for the three-year contract.

Teachers currently pay 8 percent of their health insurance premium. Under the new contract, their share will increase by 1 percentage point each year, bringing their share to 11 percent the third year.

Because the city government, rather than the school district, provides the health insurance benefits, it is the city budget that will be reduced through savings from the changes in the benefits, said Gail Johnson, director of human resources.

Teachers who are not at the top of 12 pay grades, called steps, will move up a step and receive raises. The steps are not uniform, so increases will vary, Johnson said.

Whatever is left over after the step increases are paid for will be distributed to teachers at the top step. So teachers at the top step will receive a 0.59 percent pay increase the first year. Most teachers are at the top step, Johnson said.

Overall, Johnson said, the total salary account for teachers will increase 1.99 percent the first year, 2.02 percent the second year and 2.99 percent in the final year of the contract.

The teachers were cooperative, and Superintendent of Schools Robert Henry participated in the negotiations, Johnson said. Henry hosted one bargaining session at his house. A representative from the city's personnel department was also a member of the negotiating team.

Administrators were pleased to gain more flexibility in having teachers meet with principals as a group.

"That's important because principals wanted to have more time to meet to discuss instructional strategies to meet `No Child Left Behind' mandates," Johnson said of the federal accountability law.

The contract negotiations were settled without an arbitrator. Normally arbitration feels more adversarial than if you can work out the deal among yourselves, Johnson said.

Teachers also asked the district to create a health and safety committee at each school and the administration agreed.

The administration also agreed to give teachers more time to do their end-of-year administrative tasks such as preparing files to pass on to the next grade.

"We have an outstanding negotiating team and I'm pleased we were able to hang onto things that we thought were so important to our teachers, such as severance and longevity," Carpino said.

Teachers hired before 1995 get a $100 bonus for each year served after they've been working in the district for 10 years.

For instance, a teacher who has worked in Hartford for 20 years gets a $1,000.

Previous negotiations eliminated longevity bonuses for anyone hired after 1995 and also eliminated severance. For those hired before 1995, severance amounts to a percentage of a teacher's per diem up to 175 sick days and is paid to the teacher in a lump sum upon retirement.

Longevity bonuses count toward retirement calculations. Retirement payments are based on a teacher's three highest paid years.

"They wanted to take severance away from us. And they wanted us to take a zero percent increase. Although we didn't get a lot, we got something," Carpino said.

"I do believe that given the economic times in Hartford, this is a fair contract for all parties concerned. And it sets teachers' minds at ease so we can all go back to our jobs," Carpino said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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