LANGDON — Should Charlestown withdraw from the Fall Mountain School District, new teacher and staff contracts could initially affect teacher retention, staffing and payrolls, according to some withdrawal committee members.
In an educational impact report to the Fall Mountain Withdrawal Study Committee last night, Sarah Vogel, a committee member from Acworth, said that negotiating new contracts with Charlestown teachers and support staff could potentially result in some teachers and staff using their seniority to remain in Fall Mountain rather than lose their seniority status.
“Because you are starting a new district negotiation, those teachers would start over as phase one in terms of longevity,” Vogel said. “So, your 30-year teacher, who was at the top of the [seniority] scale, would start at year one.”
To explain in context, it is important to understand that current Charlestown elementary school teachers are contractually Fall Mountain District teachers. Should Charlestown become an independent school district, Fall Mountain would release a certain portion of its faculty and support staff. While the district would logically release the teachers and staff employed in Charlestown’s schools, those employees could still exercise their contractual seniority in Fall Mountain to remain in Fall Mountain.
According to Vogel, the union contracts stipulate seniority preferences to teachers or staff based on their number of years in the district. Charlestown teachers with long careers may not wish to start anew because it would give them less protection should the district ever decide to lay off staff. Those teachers would have the option to seek another position opening within the Fall Mountain District or take the spot on the seniority list of a teacher with fewer years in the district.
Vogel said the overall impact of seniority contracts can be a “domino effect” for schools and staff.
Fall Mountain could feel positive or negative outcomes as well. In some cases, the district could arguably benefit when they retain more experienced teachers over ones with less time in the district. However, teachers with more experience typically have a much higher pay scale, which could increase school salary cost.
“It’s an administrator’s nightmare,” Vogel said of the ripple effect.
Vogel said that she raised this possibility because she felt that Charlestown proponents for withdrawal need to be aware of these often-overlooked scenarios.
Another issue of importance to Charlestown might be the district’s contract with the support staff, who include school maintenance personnel, transportation employees, instructional assistants, and other educational supports. At the committee meeting on June 26, chair Albert St. Pierre of Charlestown, said that his community would like to contract out some of those positions in an independent school district. Vogel said last night that because the district ratified a new three-year contract with the support staff, Charlestown would have to retain those services until the contract expires in July 2022, or at least through Charlestown’s first fiscal year as an independent district.