Teacher salaries to rise nearly 9% over three years

The Wilton Public School District and Wilton Education Association (WEA) have reached a tentative agreement on a three-year teachers’ union contract, which the Board of Education unanimously approved during its Nov. 10 meeting.

“There’s a lot of good in it for teachers, the administration and, most importantly, the students,” said Board of Education Chair Bruce Likly. “I’m pretty excited about this agreement.”

Superintendent Kevin Smith said the district was able to achieve several objectives during the contract negotiation process.

“I believe that the compensation package that we’re offering through this contract is competitive,” he said, “and we are remaining within the DRG in terms of salaries.”

The new teachers contract includes a “slight augmentation” to the tuition reimbursement provision, said Smith, which he believes both prospective and existing teachers will find beneficial.

Smith said the district was also able to “achieve some significant changes to healthcare” and phase out a retirement benefit.

“We made an effort through this contract to really protect our resources and come to a fair agreement, and I think we achieved that,” he said.

“The total cost over three years in terms of salary is an 8.98% increase. That’s probably the lowest settlement in our DRG.”

During the negotiation process, Likly said, it was important for the district to help teachers achieve “as highly a gross wage increase as possible to stay on par with their peers and be recognized for the true assets that they are,” while being mindful of the town and community’s financial constraints.

“The teachers worked with us on that relative to our health care costs,” he said, “and we were able to get them to a better place for gross wage increases with some of the concessions we worked through in healthcare.”

Some contracts are being renegotiated, said Likly, and “while there are some increases being born by the teachers, they’re not as great as they could have been because we were able to achieve some benefits elsewhere.”

Likly said the concept of allowing children of teachers and staff who don’t live in town to attend Wilton schools free of charge was “discussed at length.”

“As many, many know, that’s a benefit that Wilton has provided for years that is not being provided at many of our surrounding schools,” he said.

“What we agreed to do is grandfather all of those kids who are currently in the district so that none of [them] are adversely affected.”

Under the new contract, Likly said, new-hires can have their children attend Wilton schools, but will pay 30% of the district’s per-pupil cost.

“I thought that was fair and reasonable,” he said.

The new teacher contract may be a challenge to fund, said Likly, but “it won’t be as big of a challenge as it could have possibly been, and we’re grateful for that.”

Although the district didn’t get everything it had hoped, Smith said, the contract is an overall fair one that supports teachers and serves the town’s finances.

“I think we’ve set ourselves in a very good position,” he said.

“The fact that we were able to settle and avoid arbitration is significant, and I think that speaks to the good and improving relationship with the teachers union.”