Union members

are expected

to vote on the proposal Tuesday.

GRAY – A tentative agreement was reached earlier this week between representatives of the Gray-New Gloucester Educational Support Staff and the SAD 15 Board of Directors to resolve a contract dispute that spanned nearly two years.

The new agreement, if ratified by the parties, will extend through the end of the 2005-06 contract year.

The contract covers roughly 130 employees consisting of custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, education technicians and secretaries.

The tentative agreement must be ratified by both parties to go into effect.

Union members are expected to vote on the proposal Tuesday. The SAD 15 school board is expected to take action at its next board meeting June 4.

“We are hopeful that this settlement will be ratified by association members,” said Margaret Litrocapes, a SAD 15 custodian and president of the Gray-New Gloucester Educational Support Staff Association. “While we didn’t solve all the problems we were trying to address, we believe that we made some good progress, and we appreciate the tone of the board members at our negotiations meeting.”

Litrocapes said, “The district contacted us to see if we would consider making one last effort to try to settle the contract prior to interest arbitration. We believed that it was important to keep the dialogue open, and we feel that this agreement was the best effort by both sides to reach the best agreement possible.”

The agreement provides cost of living wage increases for the support staff and a cost sharing plan for health insurance premiums.

Dan Maguire of Gray, a member of the SAD 15 board and chair of the Negotiations Committee, said, “Our goal all along has been to provide a fair contract for our ESP employees and this tentative agreement does just that.

“Through a lot of hard work on the part of everyone involved, we found ways to resolve the issues that have kept us apart.”

Board member Julie Ricardi, also on the Negotiations Committee, said, “Throughout these negotiations the board has been working to balance our real budget constraints with our responsibility to provide fair wages and benefits for our employees. We had a very positive and candid discussion and now that we have a tentative agreement our next step is to get the board to ratify it at our first meeting in June.”

If all parties approve the contract, it would end a difficult year for the board and its employees. Teachers and principals have worked most of the year with lapsed contracts, but the support staff contract impasse has spanned nearly two years.

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