North Branford 2023-2026 Teachers’ Contract Finalized
During the next 3 years, North Branford’s teachers will receive annual salary increases of approximately 3.5 percent per year, adding up to the district’s highest contractual teacher salary increases in more than a decade.
That’s one of the results of the newly-approved 2023-2026 contract between the North Branford Board of Education (BOE) and the North Branford Federation of Teachers (AFT Local 3869).
“It was really a collaborative effort with the teachers’ union, with our Board of Education, and my office, in looking at the economic strains that were [involved], and where we aligned with neighboring school districts. I think everyone worked really hard; and there was a balance between the medical benefits piece and their cost-sharing and their increase in salary,” said Superintendent of Schools Scott Schoonmaker, in discussing the contract with Zip06/The Sound.
Schoonmaker said providing an annual salary increase of “greater than 3 percent” puts North Branford “right in the middle” of average public school educator salary increases being provided across the state, as recorded in contracts “...already settled and ratified.”
“North Branford was right at the 50th percentile for the increase they received,” said Schoonmaker.
Schoonmaker said it’s also the highest teachers’ salary increase to be provided to North Branford educators during his 14 years as district schools’ chief.
The new contract, effective July 1, 2023 through June 30, 2026, also provides a “3-year leveling” of educators’ premium health insurance share, said Schoonmaker.
He said North Branford teachers’ contractual healthcare costs had been increasing by a percentage each year over the past several years.
“We were among the highest in surrounding towns, so we had a flat, 3-year leveling of the premium share. Their insurance will be the same for 3 years,” said Schoonmaker.
He said the decision was based on conducting comparisons to surrounding towns, as well as those in North Branford’s District Reference Group (DRG) assigned by the CT Department of Education. Area shoreline school districts among the 15 members of North Branford’s DRG include Westbrook, Chester and Deep River.
“We always do a 2-tier comparison to those towns around us, and those in our DRG. But it’s more realistic to compare our neighboring towns; and we were high with our premium share,” said Schoonmaker.
In addition, the new contract provides a revised, 3-year tier system for stipends paid to teachers, coaches and advisors leading clubs, activities or athletic teams. The stipends will provide employees with pay that’s more competitive with what is provided by other area districts, said Schoonmaker.
“We were able to make our extra-curricular stipends more competitive with neighboring towns,” he said, including some towns where junior varsity assistant coaches were earning more than North Branford varsity coaches.
“We were way behind, for many years,” said Schoonmaker.
Contract negotiations between the BOE and the teachers’ union got underway in late summer of 2022 and were finalized in November. Schoonmaker signed off on the document on behalf of the BOE, and union president Karyl Morton represented the union in signing off on the union’s ratification of the contract.
By state statute, the contract was then provided to the Town Council, which can show support, dissent, or take no action on the contract. Discussion and action on the agreement was listed as the final agenda item (Item M) of the council’s Jan. 17 regular meeting. Item M was listed following the agenda’s call for a recess for a “non-meeting” of the council. Town Manager Michael Downes confirmed for Zip06/The Sound the council showed its support of the agreement on Jan. 17. Schoonmaker said the council’s show of support was unanimous.
“We got to a common ground,” said Schoonmaker of the contract negotiations. “...and we were pleased to have 3-year contract that satisfies the Town, the taxpayers and the teachers.”