Jun. 3—Teachers in Regional School Unit 21 are speaking out about stalled contract negotiations and plan to raise their concerns publicly at an event in Kennebunk Friday.
"The association is seeking community and district support of our teachers after a particularly difficult year in education," said Jenessa Cadorette, president of the Kennebunk Arundel Kennebunkport Education Association, in an email Thursday.
"We were once praised for going above and beyond to ensure that our students' needs were met, but lately we have experienced nothing but resistance and a 'take it or leave it' attitude."
Last Wednesday union membership voted to institute work to rule, which is when employees strictly adhere to performing only required work and stop performing voluntary additional work, and the practice has been implemented since Tuesday. Teachers have also been wearing red in solidarity and entering and exiting their respective buildings in unity, Cadorette said.
On Friday district staff are planning to gather at the Park Street playground in Kennebunk for a "Red for Ed" march through downtown. "We want to show our board that the community does indeed support our efforts and stands behind its teachers," Cadorette said. "Having a contract ratified by then will be a means of celebration, otherwise we will continue to speak loudly and often until an agreement can be reached."
The school board said in a statement it has been working "diligently and in good faith" with the union to negotiate a new three-year contract covering Sept. 2021 through Aug. 2024.
"There are complex issues at the negotiation table, particularly during these difficult times," the board said. "The Board's goal is to resolve these issues as soon as possible. We will have disagreements at the table, but let's not let the process negatively impact our children."
The board is proposing a 3 percent increase for salaries, including teachers and nurses, in its 2021-2022 budget, which is scheduled to go to voters Tuesday. "In the current teachers contract, there are multiple examples where some teachers get a raise that is three times less than a comparable teacher's raise, based on relatively similar completed years of service," the board wrote. "This is just one example of the important issues we are seeking to resolve."
The board said it is willing to meet as often as necessary to resolve the outstanding contract issues and is hoping to come to at least a tentative agreement before the end of the school year. The current contract expires Aug. 31. The association has said its members would also like to see both sides come to a resolution before the last day of school on June 15.
"Our members deserve this kind of closure after a year that has asked so much of them," Cadorette said.