No Resolution In Contract Negotiations For Monomoy Educators

By: Kat Szmit

Topics: Monomoy Regional School District , Education , Monomoy Regional High School , Monomoy Regional Middle School , Chatham Elementary School , Harwich Elementary School

Monomoy educators take their message regarding a fair contract agreement public last Wednesday with a standout. They plan to continue the standouts each week until an agreement can be reached. Alan Pollock Photo

HARWICH – Educators in the Monomoy Regional School District took their message regarding fair contracts public last Wednesday when many stood outside their respective schools holding signs that read, “Monomoy Educators Go The Extra Mile.” But with rumors flying as contract negotiations continue, Superintendent Scott Carpenter emphasized that he and the school committee have the district's best interests at heart.

Monomoy teachers have been working without a contract since their last agreement with the district ended June 30.

“The signs around town insinuate that our teachers don't have a fair contract and are not being offered something fair,” Carpenter said. “The truth is our teachers are fairly compensated, and the school committee and I are quite steadfast in wanting to keep them that way. The school committee and I fully understand that it is in the best interest of our children to keep great educators here at Monomoy.”

As proof, Carpenter offered a spreadsheet detailing the pay scales of neighboring districts, including Nauset, Dennis-Yarmouth and Barnstable. The data show that teachers in the Monomoy district are paid roughly the same, if not more in many cases, than their counterparts in those districts, with each district utilizing a step method for compensation.

For example, a Monomoy teacher at step one would have a total compensation, including salary and healthcare, of just above $60,000 per year, while a teacher at the same or similar step in Barnstable receives $56,000, and at D-Y, $59,000, with Nauset slightly higher at roughly $61,000.

“The reality is that Monomoy's teacher salaries and benefits (per day) are regionally quite competitive,” said Carpenter. “Looking at the sum total of a teacher's career, only Nauset teachers are better compensated than Monomoy's per day worked (and even then just negligibly).”

Carpenter said that with regard to those with higher pay scales at the top steps, it was important to note that the majority of a district's employees will be at the top step for nearly half of their career.

“So having a higher compensation at the top step benefits many people for many years,” he said. “Monomoy's teachers are paid (per diem) roughly equivalent to Nauset and up to 13 percent more than some area teachers at this highest step.”

Carpenter also pointed out that Monomoy's contract includes more steps than other school districts, which has caused some confusion regarding pay scales.

“[It] causes some of our teachers to be paid briefly less than area counterparts with the same years of experience and education, but this corrects itself over time,” Carpenter said. “Teachers are far better off working a full career in Monomoy than most area school districts.”

Cheri Armstrong, president of the Monomoy Regional Education Association, said that while she is unable to disclose the specific sticking points of the negotiations, healthcare was a concern.

“The superintendent, school committee, and the Monomoy Regional Educators Association have worked cooperatively to reach a tentative agreement regarding the national crisis of the rising cost of healthcare,” Armstrong said, adding that the “MREA is most interested in resolving proposals that we perceive increase the amount of paperwork and tasks for which educators are responsible, but in our opinion will not significantly advance teaching and student learning.”

While Carpenter was also unable to comment on specifics, he said he feels there is a disconnect regarding compensation and contract language.

“I suspect that parents, taxpayers, and many teachers alike would question what all the signs and hoopla are about if they knew the school committee's position. I would welcome the MREA to share with the public what the school committee has offered for compensation and what the MREA perceives as 'paperwork and tasks,' including Jawsome, that the committee has advocated for during this process.”

Jawsome was a block of time built into the daily schedule at Monomoy Regional High School to allow students in need of academic support to meet with teachers. Various club meetings were also held during Jawsome. Because Jawsome was a proposed schedule addition and not written into the latest contract, it was canceled pending a resolution to current negotiations.

Another meeting between the school committee and MREA members is slated for Dec. 18, and teachers plan to continue standing outside with signs each Wednesday until a resolution has been reached.

“We, the teachers and educational support professionals, are working without contracts,” Armstrong said. “Each day we provide excellent instruction and enrichment opportunities in an environment conducive to educating children. We care about our students, our schools and our communities. These contracts are critical to sustaining the growing success of our young school district and attracting and retaining the best possible educators. We're hopeful that we are offered contracts that reflect our dedication and professionalism.”