Watertown Teachers Contact Approved by School Committee

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Following lengthy negotiations, teachers in the Watertown Public Schools have a new contract after the School Committee approved the deal on Monday night.

The deal includes increases in each of the three years of the deal, plus bumps in the first and third years. Another addition is increased parental leave, said School Committee member Lindsay Mosca, who was on the district’s negotiating team. Jessica Middlebrook also represented the School Committee on the negotiating team.

“I think that the Watertown Public Schools have a lot to be proud of in the contract,” Mosca said. “We made a lot of good progress in the contact and I think we’ve done well for he students and  teachers in the district.”

In year one of the contract, teachers get a 2 percent cost-of-living increase, and the second and third year they receive 2.5 percent increases each year. In addition to the cost of living raise, in the first year the teachers receive a 0.5 percent market adjustment, and in the third year there is an additional 1 percent increase contingent on Watertown receiving the anticipated funds from the Fair Share Amendment, which was passed by Massachusetts voters in November and increases tax on income over $1 million.

Negotiations started in June 2022, and the two sides met 14 times to discuss the contract. Mosca said she thought that the discussions were “very positive and really productive.”

The deal was approved last week by the Watertown Educators Association (the teachers union), and Monday the majority of the School Committee voted to approve it, but City Council President Mark Sideris and City Manager George Proakis, who votes on all contracts, voted present.

Sideris said he could not vote yes because this is the first of many contracts that Watertown has to settle.

“I want to thank the negotiating team, the administration, the teachers — we have a wonderful staff here,” Sideris said. “This is a very deserving contract. I am glad able to come to an amicable agreement. I have to say because of my unique position (as a Councilor and School Committee member) with so many outstanding contacts, including in the schools, I’m going to have to vote present, because we have to consider all of the employees we work with moving forward.”

Proakis said he wants to have all employees of the City and the Schools to have competitive salaries with counterparts in other communities in the area, and he noted that some are competitive, while others are “way behind.”

The City Manager said he voted “present” because the contract “gets me to point where I am almost, but not quite, there.”

The cost of living adjustments each year, and the 0.5 percent market adjustment make sense, Proakis said, but he said the additional 1 percent the third year breaks from his philosophy of contract negotiations. He said he does not favor permanent salary increases beyond 2.5 percent, because that is the amount the City can guarantee with the 2.5 percent increase in property taxes allowed annually under Proposition 2-1/2.

“The city does get significantly more coming in from the Fair Share Amendment, which we will pass along to the Schools — I’m not leaving them out of that — but it starts to break the philosophy as I put it together. When you look at total compensation at end of contract, I am happy that it allows the opportunity for us to be so responsive to our teachers. I find myself in the position to vote present in my one and only vote on the School Committee, not in favor, because it does a lot of things I like but doesn’t do all the things I am trying to do with contacts as I do them.”

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