ROCKPORT — Teachers in Rockport’s public schools will be getting one of the largest raises they’ve ever received starting in 2022.

Members of the school district and the Rockport Teachers Association union are working to finalize a two-year contract for 2022 to 2023, guaranteeing a 2.5% salary increase per year.

Jodi Goodhue, a teacher at Rockport Middle School, served as the union’s chief negotiator. She said the contract was ratified at the start of this month and the two parties are waiting for the schools’ lawyers to deliver a finalized contract for signing. This may take “a few months,” according to Goodhue.

Rockport teacher contracts have routinely covered three years. The last three-year contract signed covered September 2018 through August 2021. The district and the union were prepared to start negotiating another three-year contact in 2020. This changed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In May 2020, the Rockport Teachers Association gave up around $140,000 worth of benefits such as tuition reimbursement to keep public spending low. The district, which had been running low on its operating budget, initially hoped to present a Proposition 2 1/2 override request to that year’s Town Meeting. The override would have allowed the schools to run at peak performance for at least five years.

With the COVID-19 pandemic looming and no override funds, the district and the union agreed to a one-year stop-gap contract for 2021 to 2022 later that fall. It was ratified in January. The contract included the teachers’ first big raise — a 2.25% increase — which allowed union members to bounce back a bit from the funding gap they agreed to take on at the start of the year.

After the Proposition 2 1/2 override passed at this year’s Town Meeting, Rockport’s teachers will see another bump in their salaries.

“On our last three-year contract, the raise was 1.45%,” Goodhue said “This is the highest we had in dozens of years.”

The 2022-2024 contract also comes with two new additions — more options for sick-leave buybacks and a “master’s plus 90” salary column. Teachers who hold master’s degrees will now be eligible to earn more based on any additional college credits they earn.

Despite these wage increases and new additions, the contract still keeps the schools’ yearly spending increase under the district’s 3% goal.

Negotiations were so easy, according to Goodhue, that there were no lawyers present.

“With the transparency that (Superintendent Rob Liebow) creates in the budget, and the trust between him, the community and union, it makes it a pretty simple process,” she said. “Everyone knows each other pretty well.”

Liebow said the most recent negotiations took around three days.

“There was no executive session proposed to accept the contract as presented,” he continued. “The teachers had done the same thing that afternoon.”

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or mcronin@gloucestertimes.com.

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or mcronin@gloucestertimes.com.

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