‘Landmark’ contract brings significant pay bumps for Pioneer teachers

Pioneer Valley Regional School District Director of Finance and Operations Jordan Burns presents the Pioneer Valley Regional Education Association’s new contract at Thursday night’s School Committee meeting.

Pioneer Valley Regional School District Director of Finance and Operations Jordan Burns presents the Pioneer Valley Regional Education Association’s new contract at Thursday night’s School Committee meeting. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 04-12-2024 2:52 PM

NORTHFIELD — The Pioneer Valley Regional School District School Committee and the teachers’ union have come to what the district describes as a “landmark” contract through fiscal year 2027.

Beginning in fiscal year 2025, all teachers will see, at a minimum, a 15% salary increase through the three years of the contract with starting salaries beginning at $52,000. There are also three new steps at the top of the district’s pay scale, which will grant additional pay to veteran teachers. In exchange, teachers will have 15 minutes added to their work day and the district will have more flexibility when scheduling teachers during the work day.

The pay increases will make Pioneer’s teaching staff among some of the highest paid in the county, which the administration said will allow Pioneer to remain competitive in the hiring process against their peer districts.

Renee Keir, co-chair of the Pioneer Valley Regional Education Association’s (PVREA) negotiation committee and co-president of the union, said this is the “best historical” contract for the union in her 24 years of teaching in the district.

“We’re glad the School Committee recognized the need for corrections for our teachers, following in suit for what they’ve been able to do with the administration,” Keir said Friday, adding that she hopes the School Committee can bring the same benefit to their sister union, the Pioneer Valley Association of Support Personnel (PVASP).

“I hope they apply the same yardstick to the [PVASP’s] important work,” Keir added. “We’re only as good as our support staff.”

Director of Finance and Operations Jordan Burns said the pay raises will not have an adverse effect on the budget, as negotiations ended close to the projected outcome in the FY25 budget. For FY26 and FY27, initial projections show the district can fund these contractual increases while keeping town assessments at a reasonable level, according to a memo sent out by the district.

“The most important thing is we’re not creating an unsustainable financial future for the district. We’ve projected this out, looked at it through the life of the contract,” Burns said. “We’re super happy. It was a great process and we’re just so proud we’re able to compensate and make so much ground in a single agreement.”

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In an example shared by Burns during Thursday night’s School Committee meeting, a teacher with a bachelor’s degree entering the district in FY24 would receive $45,772, which is the second-lowest pay in Franklin County, while a teacher entering the district with a bachelor’s degree in FY25 would receive $53,064, which is the second-highest pay in the county, with only New Salem and Wendell paying more, according to a slideshow shared by the district.

There was still a year and a half remaining in the union’s contract, but the School Committee offered to proactively reopen contract negotiations in October, with the teachers’ union beginning negotiations in January. The last contract, which was signed in 2022 — after teachers began the year without a contract — and was slated to end in 2025, ended in mediation after the parties failed to reach an agreement.

Keir thanked the School Committee for inviting the union back to the table and listening to what the teachers wanted, noting the increased pay comes with more work hours, as “the School Committee wanted more, so we gave more to get more in service of our students.”

“They heard our concerns,” Keir said. “We’ve been living in a scarcity model for so long, so we really want to applaud the School Committee for making this correction.”

For more information about the PVREA’s contract, as well as the slideshow and other documents, view the district’s newsletter at smore.com/n/345uz.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com.