Hampshire Regional School Committee signs off on new three-year deal with union

The Hampshire Regional School Committee on Monday voted a approve a new contract with the Hampshire Regional Education Association. The three-year deal ends a contentious negotiating period for the two sides.

The Hampshire Regional School Committee on Monday voted a approve a new contract with the Hampshire Regional Education Association. The three-year deal ends a contentious negotiating period for the two sides. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

By Alexa Lewis

Staff Writer

Published: 05-08-2024 4:31 PM

WESTHAMPTON — The fraught debates surrounding the Hampshire Regional Education Association’s contract have come to an official end, with the School Committee voting to ratify a new three-year contract during at its Monday meeting.

The contract, already ratified by the 109-member union, was settled on April 12, with provisions for cost-of-living adjustments and family and medical leave. The agreement came after 224 days without a contract and over a year of tense debates.

“We are grateful to all of the dedicated individuals who have worked hard to move us forward in this process,” Thomas Cleary, chair of the Hampshire Regional School Committee, wrote in an email after Monday’s vote. “We heard from many members of our community and appreciate the input and feedback we received. We look forward to continuing to provide an unrivaled experience for the students of Hampshire Regional. Our towns are lucky to have so many caring individuals who committed themselves to this process and to making a better school for our students.”

Because the delay in finalizing a contract resulted in no contract existing for the current school year, the new agreement contains a one-year contract with retroactive raises of 2.5% for teachers, paraprofessionals, and administrative assistants, which will be made available within the next six weeks.

The second part of the agreement is a three-year deal that extends through fiscal 2027 and contains the first cost-of-living adjustments above 2% awarded to staff in over 16 years. Teachers will receive cost-of-living adjustments of 3% in each of the three years, and educational support staff will receive a 3% increase in year one and 4% increases the following two years. In fiscal year 2026, the new contract will also grant teachers at the two top steps of their pay scale an additional 1% salary increase.

Teachers, paraprofessionals, and administrative assistants will also be afforded 20 days of parental leave which can be used for time off surrounding the birth or adoption of a child, or for new parents to spend with their children as they see fit. For more time off, staff will have up to 20 days of sick leave available, and teachers may use the 20 days granted by the Family and Medical Leave Act.

In a story shortly after the two sides settled on the terms of the contract, HREA co-president Greg Reynolds described the feeling as “amazing.”

“As a union, it was a process that helped build capacity and engagement,” he told the Gazette two weeks ago. “I would hope because of the work that we’ve done and the level of engagement from community members, parents and alums, there’s going to be a better awareness of contract negotiations in the future.”

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Alexa Lewis can be reached at alewis@gazettenet.com or on Instagram and Twitter at @alexamlewis.