Here are our talking points during the campaign:
- The teachers contract agreement is a fiscally responsible four-year agreement that creates cost certainty for district schools to predict and plan future budgets in addition to deflecting rising health care costs. That’s why all of the district budget committees voted unanimously in favor of the agreement.
- The contract agreement benefits students by attracting and retaining quality educators. Students succeed when dedicated teachers create opportunities for learning and growth in the classroom and extracurricular activities including clubs and sports. Retaining our quality SAU 21 teachers who have a proven track record of success is paramount. In addition, we need to be able to compete in recruiting younger, innovative teachers that will create the next generation of instruction in our district. Since 2006, the percentage of college students looking to major in education have decreased by half so recruiting new talent is more important than ever.
- The 2.75% cost of living adjustment for each year of the agreement is .65% below the local Consumer Price Index used to set COLAs. This helps teachers’ compensation keep up with rising costs in the Seacoast and begin to compete with other local school districts. *Portsmouth CPI July 2017-2018
- Teachers agreed to drop the most expensive health insurance plan to save the district tens of thousands of dollars. The expensive Blue Choice Plan currently has the highest number of claims so premiums will go down over time. In addition, jettisoning the Blue Choice Plan will guard the district against paying a very costly “Cadillac” excise tax of 40% in 2022.
- The contract recognizes and rewards teachers for their accomplishments and gives SAU 21 the ability to continue in its successes. SAU 21 schools have outperformed other schools in the state and country. For example, Winnacunnet High School has received numerous awards including the NH School of Excellence in 2017 and a ranking in the top 100 schools in the nation. Teachers have earned recognition for their achievements and they have earned a new contract.
- Great communities have great schools. Property values and quality of living in SAU 21 communities are some of the highest in the state because families and businesses move here for our excellent schools. Let’s continue to make our community the best it can be by making sure the teaching talent stays in SAU 21 and by recruiting new innovators to achieve even more.
- Despite the achievements, SAU 21 salaries have not remained competitive with surrounding schools. For example, a recent Masters degree graduate starting a career in Portsmouth last year instead of SAU 21 would earn $4,000 a year more. A top-step earner with the same masters degree would earn $7,000 a year more there. In Exeter those same teachers would earn $4,500 and $4,000 more respectively and in only 10 steps compared to 13 in SAU 21. In addition, most teachers in SAU 21 have lost multiple steps in the past 9 years. Another lost contract and loss of step raises may push them to leave for better pay in other districts where they would get those steps back. Or it could mean leaving the profession altogether -two thirds of teachers leave the profession before retirement. This all adds up to teachers feeling undervalued in their communities.
- Failure to pass the contract means:
- The Blue Choice Plan will continue to cost the district tens of thousands a year.
- The district won’t be able to choose another health care plan to avoid “Cadillac” excise taxes from the Affordable Care Act that will cost taxpayers dearly in 2022.
- SAU 21 teacher salaries will continue to fall even further behind other districts who will benefit at our expense by hiring our excellent teachers and talented new recruits.
- Teachers will lose step raises again that will not be recovered in later contracts. The loss of steps will continue to cause permanent financial harm while teachers remain in district.
- No reward or recognition of teachers’ success in winning the NH School of Excellence or Top 100 ranking in the US.
- The contract appears on TWO ballots in each SAU 21 town. It appears once on the town school ballot and then again on the Winnacunnet ballot. It must pass on both ballots in order for any SAU 21 teacher to get a new contract.
- Each town in SAU 21 must pass this contract or it fails. If one school district votes it down, the contract will not pass for any SAU 21 teacher.
***Scott’s biggest piece of advice is also an initiative this year: “Ten to the Polls and 2 by Absentee” (catchy name pending) That’s the goal for teachers in district is to get 10 people to vote for public schools and make sure 2 absentee ballots are mailed in from folks who can’t get to the polls.