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Teachers, School Committee ratify one-year contract

The School Committee voted Monday to ratify a new contract with the Harvard Teachers Association, approving a 1.4% cost-of-living increase starting Sept. 1. However, the contract covers only a single year, not the usual three.

Before the coronavirus pandemic closed the schools in March, representatives from the Harvard Teachers Association (HTA) and the School Committee were at work on a new three-year contract. Negotiations were completed in early April, but by that time it was clear that both the town and the state faced a very uncertain financial future.

Hoping for more solid information on town and state finances, the School Committee tabled the contract rather than ratifying it as expected at an April 13 meeting. Subsequently, in executive session April 27, the committee decided to ask the HTA to accept a one-year contract, given mounting evidence that state aid to the town would be sharply reduced in the next fiscal year.

During the week of May 4, the HTA put the revised offer to an online vote of its full membership, which approved accepting the one-year agreement.

Even with the one-year term, School Committee members still struggled with supporting ratification this week. Member Shannon Molloy suggested a further delay until state funding was determined, saying any contract would reduce the town’s flexibility to deal with the “enormous financial instability” it faces. But Chair John Ruark countered that the time to ask the HTA for changes was past. “We put an offer out there in good faith, and they accepted it in good faith,” he said. That argument eventually carried the day, and the contract was ratified unanimously.

The Press invited comments from representatives of the Select Board and the HTA who were involved in the negotiations, but neither had responded as the issue went to press.

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