By Alan J. Keays
BRANDON – With the help of a federal mediator and after a six hours of talks Saturday, Dec. 2, bus drivers and paraeducators of the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union have reached a tentative contract with negotiators for the school boards.
The deal comes two days after the union voted to strike unless there was agreement on a new contract. The union had been without a new contract for 18 months.
Wages and cost sharing for health insurance had been the main sticking points.
In addition to Otter Valley Union High School in Brandon, other schools that would have been affected by a strike included Barstow Memorial School in Chittenden, Leicester Central School, Lothrop Elementary School in Pittsford, Neshobe Elementary School in Brandon, Sudbury Country School and Whiting Elementary School.
Representatives of the two parties as well as federal mediator Cynthia Jeffries started the negotiation process in executive session at 11 a.m. Saturday and emerged a little after 5 p.m.
“I am excited and very pleased to announce we have reached a tentative agreement,” Jennifer Mallory said Saturday evening shortly after reaching the deal.
Mallory is a paraeducator who serves as co-president of the Rutland Northeast Education Association Paraeducators and Bus Drivers Unit.
“We look forward to being able to continue our work with our students uninterrupted,” she said “We love our jobs and we love working in the community.”
The union membership will vote on the proposed contract at a meeting Monday evening. The union has 82 members, according to Mallory.
Dr. James Rademacher, chief negotiator for the school boards, said Saturday evening that the school boards are expected to take up the tentative contract at a meeting Tuesday evening.
“I will say that both teams came to the meeting highly motivated to come to a successful agreement,” he said. “Both teams realized we were very far apart and we both were going to have to make significant concessions to come to an agreement.”
And both sides did, Rademacher added.
“I think both teams are very happy with coming to an agreement. I’m not sure I would necessarily say we are happy with the terms,” he said. “Both sides had to give a lot … but we both believe we are capable of living with the terms.”
Both Rademacher and Mallory said they were optimistic that the deal will gain final approval. They also both praised the work of Jeffires, the federal mediator.
Photo by Jess Wisloski, VTDigger
A school bus warns drivers to stop, for children boarding and exiting the vehicle.w