Hazen Union Teachers’ Strike Averted

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(Host) Negotiators have reached agreement on a new contract for teachers at Hazen Union High School in Hardwick. The agreement came at 1:30 a.m., after 17 months of bargaining and only hours before teachers were to go on strike.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) One week ago, teachers voted unanimously to go on strike today, if an agreement wasn’t reached. School officials had said the strike would force them to close Hazen Union until teachers returned to work. Peter Peltz led the negotiating team for the school board. Peltz says the final bargaining session lasted over nine hours, but it was worth it:

(Peltz) “Unlike the last session when we left here at 5:30 in the morning, totally exhausted and not in good spirits, we’re leaving in much better spirits and realizing school will be open and there’s no threat of a strike now.”

(Zind) Most of Hazen Union’s 41 teachers waited at the school last night while a federal mediator met with negotiators for the teachers and the school board. Dale Pritchard is president of the Hazen Union Teacher’s Association. Pritchard says the prospect of a strike at this point in the school year was a motivating factor.

(Prichard) “They’re small communities. And of course that’s difficult. It’s hard because sometimes it pits neighbor against neighbor and people you’ve had in school. It was going to be very hard and so we’re most relieved. I think that reality set in and we all were willing to make it happen.”

(Zind) Terms of the new three-year contract won’t be disclosed until teachers ratify the agreement this afternoon. Earlier negotiations had stalled primarily over pay for the school district’s more experienced teachers. The school board wanted to increase pay of incoming teachers to make the jobs more competitive. The teachers’ union said the proposal didn’t do enough teachers at the top of the salary scale.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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