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Teachers union gets raise of 8.25%, gives concessions

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GROTON — In a unanimous decision, the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee voted to approve a new labor agreement with the district teachers’ union.

According to committee member James Frey, negotiations for the new contract had been in the works for the past year. The new contract includes concessions from the union that he said will mean savings for the school district under difficult ongoing economic conditions.

Frey said that among the most important points of the contract was an agreement by the teachers to move from the district’s current health insurance model to a state-sponsored program. The change will retain individual coverage while saving the school system much-needed funds. The union has agreed to begin the transition to the state insurance program immediately.

Another change will be the methods by which teachers are evaluated, with a new approach to be implemented over the coming years.

In return, the district has agreed to an overall 8.25 percent increase in teacher salaries over a three-year period ending in 2011.

The new contract, representing 211 employees including teachers, guidance counselors and nurses, will be retroactive to Sept. 1 and extend to 2011.

With the agreement previously ratified by the teacher’s union, members of the School Committee voted 6-0 to approve the contract last week. Committee member Chuck McKinney was absent.

Also at its Dec. 3 meeting, the School Committee voted to accept a donation of $6,394 from the Groton-Dunstable Education Foundation (GDEF).

The donation represented the private group’s 11th round of grant announcements, with money being spread throughout the district and to all grade levels.

Among the items for which grant money is being distributed, GDEF member Kristen Stone listed $500 each for a pilot program teaching kindergartners how to sound out letters, science experimentation kits for third graders, training for the school psychologist to work with K through fourth grade, robotics competition expenses for high schoolers, an interactive magic show for the Boutwell School, a live presentation of stories from ancient Greece for sixth graders, an art-meets-biology program for high schoolers, audio books to help struggling elementary school readers, and “challenging competition” supplies to help high school Latin students.

Other programs covered in the latest grant phase include purchases of reading books for K through second grade, a program by the Nashua River Watershed Association in which Boutwell students get to meet “wildlife of the watershed,” art games for elementary school students, a professional storyteller to perform for third and fourth graders, and training for the teacher scheduled to lead high school students in the Mass Envirothon competition.

Stone said fund-raising begins immediately for the next round of grants, with the next event scheduled for March 14 at the Groton School.

To learn more about GDEF and its fund-raising efforts, visit www.gdefinc.org.

The School Committee also voted to accept the donation of $5,000 from the Groton-Dunstable Youth Basketball League for the boys’ and girls’ freshmen basketball program at the high school, as well as a separate private donation of a treadmill for use within the district, worth $2,500.