Contracts complete for Athol Royalston School unions

  • Athol Royalston Regional School District Superintendent Matt Ehrenworth. For the Athol Daily News/Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 9/24/2023 4:02:33 PM
Modified: 9/24/2023 4:01:43 PM

ATHOL – Contract negotiations with the Athol Teachers Association (ATA) have been completed, and Superintendent Matt Ehrenworth said the process has gone smoother than in years past.

The Athol Teachers Association represents all bargaining units in the district. The contracts for all employees span three years.

“It’s definitely worth stating that the district did not have an attorney at any of the meetings, and the union did not have the MTA (Massachusetts Teachers Association) at any of the meetings,” he said. “We did all of our negotiations – school committee, superintendent, and staff – nobody else came to any of the negotiating sessions. We managed to get through the whole process without them.”

While the contracts were just recently approved by the union and the committee, raises for non-teaching employees are retroactive to the start of the current fiscal year.

“Technically, the 12-month salaries started July 1,” Ehrenworth explained. “But for all the school-year employees – the teachers and the paras – we actually had the contract done in time for the first pay period of this new school year.”

Calls and emails to ATA President Kerry Conway seeking comment were not returned by press time.

The superintendent said negotiations began in November 2022, well before the end of the contract in effect at that time. Ehrenworth said a novel approach was taken when it came to raises for educators.

“For the teachers, the first year is a $4,500 flat increase to every salary,” said Ehrenworth. “For year two, it’s another $4,500 flat increase for every teacher. And for year three, it’s a 2 ½ % increase.”

Asked if the lump sum increases were to satisfy newer teachers while also tempting them to stay in the district, Ehrenworth responded, “It was done really across the board to say, ‘We know our salaries have been low. We want to be extremely competitive, if not the highest-paying district in the region.’”

For teachers at the lower end of the pay scale, $4,500 amounts to a salary increase of 10.33%, according to Ehrenworth. For someone with a doctorate, it comes to 5.35% for the highest paid. The superintendent said it was the union that originally proposed the flat amount increases for the first two years of their pact.

The pay hikes, Ehrenworth said, won’t impact local taxpayers. The district received funds through the Student Opportunity Act, enacted in 2019 to close the gaps in economically disadvantaged communities. The superintendent said that one way to best use the funds would be to hire the most qualified teachers possible.

Ehrenworth added that the raises are also meant to be an incentive for teachers to continue their education and take advantage of professional development opportunities. In addition, new resources are in place, such an improved mentoring program and a new English Language Arts curriculum.

“The thought was, the more money we can put into our salaries and show people that we appreciate them, the more likely they’re going to be to stay,” Ehrenworth said. “We want to attract and retain good people.”

Members of the district’s other unions – paraprofessionals, custodians, and administrative support – all received a $2 per hour increase over the first two years, followed by a 2 ½ % hike in year three. Steps were taken to make pay for stipend positions more equitable, while more money was also set aside for longevity payments.

Greg Vine can be reached at

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