South Hadley teachers, district reach tentative contract agreement


Staff Writer

Published: 01-12-2023 2:05 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — After more than two months of working only their contracted hours, the town’s public school teachers, paraeducators and other staff members are no longer “working-to-rule.”

Members of the South Hadley Education Association put an end to the action Friday afternoon after the school district and the teachers unit struck a tentative agreement during contract negotiations, according to Amy Foley, president of the association.

“Although it’s not what we originally asked for, the increases are more than anything we agreed on in the last 10 years. When we look at area districts that have settled … we’re above average for that as well,” said Foley. “I’m cautiously optimistic.”

The union had proposed a four-year contract for teachers and specialists with increases of 2% for year one, 3% for year two, 4% for year three, and 4% for year four.

As it currently stands for teachers and specialists, the school district has proposed a four-year contract with increases of 2% in year one, 2% in year two, 2.5% in year three, and 3% in year four, according to School Committee Chairwoman Allison Schlachter.

Teachers and specialists would receive a retroactive payment for year one and a retroactive payment going back to July 2022 for year two.

Schlachter said that the two groups were able to have productive discussions and reach a compromise on topics such as special education preparation time, teacher after-school hours, and the salary schedule.

“It feels hopeful,” said Schlachter. “We worked so hard to negotiate this contract. We’ve been at it close to a year probably and it has been a really difficult process. There was a heaviness for everybody. Reaching this tentative agreement gives me hope that we’ll be able to re-focus on so many other things in the district.”

Back to ‘normal?’

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Work-to-rule went into effect on Nov. 2 after contract negotiations reached an impasse and union members had entered their second year of work without a contract.

As part of that action, teachers did not stay after the school day to finish grading papers, preparing for school-related issues beyond their hours, and engaging in other non-stipend or volunteer positions.

Foley said that the action goes against the nature of teachers, but she was proud of how the membership came together in solidarity and felt it was very successful.

And although union members now have the ability to go back to “normal,” Foley said there are some who might not be as ready to return to a schedule that includes working beyond the hours they’re paid.

Although teachers putting in extra time before the school day and after, at home, might be considered the norm, Foley said it doesn’t mean it’s right.

“For me, personally, I’ve always put in extra time. I’d come in 45 minutes early, stay late and then even take it home,” she said. “What work-to-rule has shown me is that I need to find more balance. … Leaving my work at school and being present with my family has made a world of difference.”

This week, the unit for department heads and administrators will negotiate their contracts. The South Hadley Education Association, which has approximately 270 members, will vote whether to accept the contracts next week.

Emily Thurlow can be reached at]]>