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Start of Teacher Contract Negotiations, Makeup of Board Team Up in Air

The Barrington School Committee is still putting together its bargaining team; negotiations are getting off to a much later start than is typical.

The final makeup of the Barrington School Committee team that will negotiate a new contract with the teachers' union is still on the drawing board.

The only things that are certain at this time are that business manager Ron Tarro will be part of the team, and the negotiations are getting off to a much later start than is typical, said Patrick Guida, chairman of the School Committee.

"And that bothers me," Guida said Thursday night after a School Committee meeting at which he said he wanted to clarify a couple of things about the negotiations.

Negotiations typically have started by this time, Guida said, so they can be completed well in advance of the expiration date of the contract -- by the end of June. But they're on hold until after the election next week, when there could be a turnover on the School Committee.

The expiration of the contract generally does not fall after an election year, Guida said. But an extension by one year of the three-year contract negotiated in 2008 led to this situation.

The School Committee also has yet to hire a proven negotiator to help craft the next contract with the NEAB (National Education Association Barrington). The negotiator is taking the place of Barrington's superintendent of schools, who "recused himself," Guida said, because he is married to a teacher at the high school.

Three law firms responded to an RFP to represent the School Committee at the bargaining table: Little, Medeiros, Kinder, Bulman and Whitne; Robinson and Clapham, and Brennan, Recupero, Cascione, Scungio and McAllister. Representatives will be interviewed by the School Committee over the next week or so.

"There should not be a question that the School Committee is abdicating its responsibility," Guida stressed. "The School Committee will still make the final decision."

Guida also said previously that the School Committee will set the “framework and boundaries ... in advance of starting negotiations.”

“We will provide parameters to conduct the conversation,” Guida said, including a salary range and the issues the board wants to address. “There will always be flexibility to the guidelines. You can’t have hard and fast rules or that could be construed as bad-faith bargaining.”

Guida said the School Committee also has complete faith in Tarro as a member of the negotiating team. He has partnered with past superintendents Robert McIntyre and Ralph Malafronte to negotiate contracts.

A School Committee member or two also could sit at the bargaining table – although that still remains to be determined by the board.

No matter when negotiations begin, Guida said, "I would like to have the contract finalized before the Financial Town Meeting."

The makeup of the bargaining team and the outcome of the Nov. 6 election could have a significant impact on that timetable.

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