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The Transition Committee refused to comment on the contract negotiations with teachers in the three schools that make up the new preK-12 regional school district.

Teachers' Union to Mount Greylock: Honor Existing Contracts

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Mount Greylock Educators Association Vice President Marty Walter delivered a statement to the Transition Committee on Thursday evening.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Educators in the regional school district are asking the Transition Committee to honor existing contractual wage increases, which officials have decided to forego as three separate contracts are merged into one.
 
Mount Greylock Educators Association Vice President Marty Walter said the teachers' unions feel it is "unacceptable" not to honor those wages and accused school administrators of being unwilling to negotiate.
 
The Transition Committee, made up of members of the three expiring school committees, has agreed to honor the provisions in the existing contracts, except for the wage increase, according to the union.
 
"There is no reason or merit to freezing every educator's wages pending the completion of one agreement that is built on the contracts currently in place," Walter said during Thursday's Transition Committee meeting in the Mount Greylock Regional School's library. "Combining three contracts into one is not easy work, which is why we believe that your goal of settling a new contract within a six-month timeline was unrealistic from the start."
 
Transition Committee member Chris Dodig is heading the negotiations for the school district but refused to comment on the union's statement. 
 
"We've elected not to discuss the negotiations publicly," Dodig said, repeating that a second time when asked to even confirm whether or not the district has opted to withhold wage increases.
 
A group representing the three former bargaining committees -- one for each school -- started negotiating a contract with the newly formed preK-12 school district in January. The three union contracts have to be merged into one for the entire district and the Transition Committee hoped to get that done by July. Walter, however, said such contracts typically take up to 18 months to reach a settlement. 
 
Walter said that while progress is being made, there is still a lot of work to be done. But he also believes that the administration hasn't been too helpful in reaching a settlement. He said the union has submitted 26 pages of proposals that "have been largely left unanswered."
 
The negotiations are heading to mediation. Walter said both sides have filed with the state and are waiting to hear back. The current contracts of the three schools are set to expire at the end of August for Williamstown Elementary, end of August 2019 for Mount Greylock Regional, and the end of August in 2020 for Lanesborough Elementary, according to Walter.
 
"We agreed with you that these negotiations will benefit from mediation and we are confident that a fair contract can be settled in a timely and efficient manner," Walter said. "Until that new agreement is reached, honor our existing contracts is in keeping with the spirit of this plan to create a strong, unified school district."
 
A team of union members filled the library on Thursday to support Walter's statement to the Transition Committee. The committee heard Walter's remarks before entering an hour and a half executive session that included a discussion regarding the committee's strategy in the negotiations. It is unclear whether the union taking the issue public has made an impact on the committee's stance.
 
Transitioning from three individual teachers' contracts to one districtwide contract is one of the most difficult tasks to complete following the vote of each town to go to a full regional model. 

Tags: contract negotiations,   MGRSD,   teacher contract,   

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Williamstown Playground Project Nearing Completion

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — After more than a year of planning, fund-raising and advocacy, efforts to rebuild a town playground are in the homestretch.
 
Last week, the poured rubber surfacing was scheduled to be laid at the new playground at Linear Park, off Water Street, and one of the volunteers helping lead the project said the hope is that the site will be ready for youngsters before the end of the fall.
 
"It's starting to look like a playground," Amy Jeschawitz said as she surveyed the partially installed equipment that will be finished off once the rubber padding and wood fiber infill are installed.
 
The brightly-colored, modern play pieces are a far cry from the dated equipment at the park just a couple of years ago, when a safety inspection found deficiencies at the town facility.
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