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Published: Thursday, 4/18/2002

Bedford schools, teachers agree on tentative deal

TEMPERANCE - Bedford Public Schools officials have reached a tentative agreement with district teachers, who have worked without a contract since July.

Details of the proposed three-year agreement were not released pending a ratification vote by the Bedford Education Association, which represents about 300 teachers in the 5,300-student district. If the union membership approves the contract, the school board would consider it at a special meeting, a district spokesman said.

A state mediator has worked with the district and the union for several weeks in hopes of breaking a deadlock.

The two sides have been at odds for much of the school year, with teachers regularly picketing and wearing solidarity T-shirts at board meetings and other functions. Their major points of contention included the district's desire to achieve cost savings from its health insurance plans and the teachers' insistence that the district bring its members' pay up to median levels in the county.

Under terms of the previous contract, a beginning teacher in Bedford is paid $29,522 a year, while the top-tier teacher with a master's degree plus 36 additional credit hours is paid $59,498 per year.

District officials earlier had been offering pay raises in excess of 3 percent.

Superintendent James Goebel said he was “glad” the two sides were finally able to come to terms. He said he would comment further once details of the agreement have been released.

BEA President Colleen Jan could not be reached for comment last night.

The protracted labor dispute has overshadowed the opening last fall of a fifth elementary school and a large expansion of the high school. Parent-teacher conferences were at first canceled, then rescheduled after the two sides could not agree on a timetable for them. As late as last week, officials had not agreed on when the current school year would end because of days off this spring for inclement weather.

The district had reached agreements with unions representing its other employees, leaving only the BEA without a contract.

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