After about 30 minutes of plucking line items out of the Tiverton school district’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016, at a January 22, 2015, presentation to the Budget Committee, Superintendent William Rearick wrapped up with, “That’s really the budget in a nutshell.” Left out of the nutshell were any details about the cost of the proposed teacher contract, even though the basic terms were decided and tucked into the packet handed to Budget Committee members.
After another half hour of discussion, mostly about the prospect of all-day kindergarten, Budget Committee Chairman John Souza asked whether the School Committee was in the middle of any negotiations. Still, no details were provided. “I won’t ask you,” Souza assured Rearick, as if the details were a secret.
Some members of the public, and even some members of the Budget Committee, were therefore surprised when, in mid-September, the school department announced that the deal was complete and, in fact, it matched the terms that had been made public eight months earlier.
The announcement of raises was all the more surprising coming months after a heated argument about whether the district could afford to go forward with all-day kindergarten after the elector budget won at the financial town referendum in May, giving the district no increase in local funds. With all of the debate over finding around $127,000 to fund all-day kindergarten, nobody on the School Committee, in the school administration, or in the public pointed out that the committee was preparing to increase teachers’ pay by $255,281 for the first year of a new contract.