Martha's Vineyard Regional High School committee members voted extra salary hikes this week for seven top Vineyard school administrators and high-level staff, but on the other end of the scale 170 teaching assistants, custodians, secretaries and lunchroom workers are still working without any raises over last year's pay.
At least one school committee member objected to the raises totaling more than $20,000, arguing that lower-level employees still lacked contracts.
"We should be waiting for other contracts to get under control," said Robert Tankard, the regional high school committee member from Tisbury. "Let's put it on hold until the other stuff is nailed down."
Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash had pushed for the extra raises for the seven top-tier employees, on top of across-the-board three per cent salary increases for 38 non-union school administrators and administrative assistants.
"I've looked at their work responsibilities, their changing roles and market value," Mr. Cash told members of the regional high school committee Monday night at their regular monthly meeting. "It's important for these significant persons to be rewarded with salary adjustments."
Meanwhile, school committee members sparred with one another over why new contracts remain undone for the four unions governing 111 teaching assistants, 24 custodians, 24 secretaries and 11 food service workers. Previous three-year deals for all four unions expired June 30.
"This committee should get its act together with negotiations," said Aquinnah school committee member Roxanne Ackerman. "It's a mess."
Gail Palacios, the school committee member from Edgartown, said she was not given enough lead time to attend bargaining sessions held this summer. "It shouldn't be this fractured at this point," she said.
Mr. Tankard, the chairman of the negotiating subcommittee, said it was difficult to bring board members together over the summer months, but he added that contract for teaching assistants is nearing completion.
Susan Parker, the school board member from Chilmark, tried to defuse some of the tension rising in the library conference room.
"It's unfortunate we have not made more progress," she said. "This is not a blame game."
This week, members of the teaching assistant union and bargaining team sounded resigned to their fate, trailing teachers and administrators in the salary negotiation process.
"It's nothing new to us," said Catherine Plesz, a teaching assistant at the Oak Bluffs School. "To my knowledge, it's almost a done deal."
Pat Lynch, an assistant at the West Tisbury School for 14 years, said, "It's certainly happened before."
But Ms. Lynch added that the negotiations this summer progressed well. "There was a nice pace to it. Bob [Tankard] played a role in that, facilitating the whole process," she said.
According to the assistant to the superintendent for business affairs, last year's salaries for teaching assistants totaled $1.7 million.
While the assistants and the three smaller labor unions in the Vineyard schools wait for their pay increases, the 50 nonunion employees at the upper ranks were put on the faster track this week.
The regional high school committee voted 6-2 with one abstention to approve Mr. Cash's recommendations. Dissenting votes were cast by Mr. Tankard and Ms. Ackerman. Ms. Parker abstained.
Beefed-up salary adjustments at the high school gave principal Peg Regan a boost in annual pay from $104,182 to $111,000. Technology director Woody Filley's annual salary increased from $66,030 to just over $70,000.
Also at the high school, the pay for administrative assistant Margaret Serpa rose from $66,675 to $70,676 a year. Bus administrator James Maseda saw his base salary go from $43,302 to $57,778.
Over at the superintendent's office in Vineyard Haven, three employees were singled out for pay hikes beyond the standard three per cent hike. Margaret Harris was given the new title of assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction and a pay raise from $82,000 to $87,000 a year. Edith Rousseau, Mr. Cash's administrative assistant, received a six per cent raise, going from $46,244 to $49,214.
The financial administrative assistant, Janet Sylvia, was carried from $44,214 to $49,214 in the wave of salary adjustments.
Mr. Cash told the Gazette yesterday that the raises totaled $50,000 across the board. The money came from a special line item in the budget, specially set aside for extra pay coupled with extra salary funds in the vocational department where the departure of higher-paid staff members left a surplus of roughly $25,000.
This week, Mr. Cash asked the school board to support his recommendations. "These employees don't have bargaining rights. They look to me to do it," he said.
Ms. Parker asked for more time. "Nobody's had a chance to think about this," she said.
"What would you like to think about?" asked Mr. Cash.
In addition to the four union contracts, the two new principals up-Island - Diane Gandy and Michael Halt - are awaiting final contracts.
Salaries for custodians last year totaled roughly $870,000. For secretaries, the figure was about $700,000 and $180,000 for food service workers.