May 23, 2019

SAD 24 board members ratify teacher pact

VAN BUREN — Members of the SAD 24 board put two pressing matters to rest Wednesday when they hired a district guidance counselor and ratified the 1994-95 contract for teachers.

Florida educator Robert Hawkins was hired as guidance counselor, a position vacated when former counselor Jerry Levine left the district in November to accept a job as a veterans’ counselor in Caribou.

Hawkins, who resides in South Daytona, Fla., has been a guidance counselor for 10 years. Before that, he taught high school biology. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., and a master’s degree in guidance counseling from Stetson University in Deland, Fla.

Hawkins is married and has an 11-year-old son. He will begin his job here on March 15.

Teachers at Gateway Elementary School and Van Buren District Secondary School have a new contract. Negotiating teams for the Van Buren Education Association and the school board reached an agreement after almost a year of contract talks.

Teachers had been without a contract since August, when their one-year agreement expired. After roughly two months of working without a contract, members of the local teachers union touched off a series of candlelight vigils to call attention to their plight.

The vigils drew support from parents, grandparents, at least one school board member, fellow educators from outside the district, and officials from the Maine Education Association.

The contract, retroactive to August, includes a move up the 15-step pay scale for eligible teachers and a one-time $400 stipend for those already at the top.

Teachers who were reimbursed a flat dollar figure for course fees will now be repaid 50 percent of their tuition costs.

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