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Salem Teachers Union, Salem Public Schools Reach Collective Bargaining Agreement - Negotiations Involved Innovative “Bargaining for the Common Good” Strategy

The Salem Teachers Union and Salem Public Schools have reached an agreement on a new contract to last through August 2024. The agreement is responsive to input we heard from parents, students, educators, administrators, School Committee members, and other community stakeholders to ensure that our students receive an exemplary educational experience. This collaboration resulted in a contract that recognizes and celebrates Salem’s diversity and forward-looking leadership.
“At one of the community forums we held, I remember parents saying that they went through their entire education without having teachers that looked like them,” said Ann Berman, 
President of the Salem Teachers Union. “We are proud to work with Salem Public Schools to make an intentional effort to remedy that problem.”
The new contract builds upon Salem Public School’s key priorities including the desire to be an anti-racist district and specifically contains multilingual material and incentive requirements. These requirements include:
  • job postings be made in English and Spanish
  • recruitment differential for bilingual staff,
  • and efforts to expand culturally responsive library materials in every school.
The Union and Salem Public Schools also reached agreements on other “common good” provisions such as affirming the district’s previous strong commitment to safe and well maintained school facilities for all. Salem Public Schools invested substantially and early during the pandemic in investigating and improving air handling equipment in every school in the district. The FY2022 City capital budget includes an additional $1,134,000 in investments in school buildings and equipment, further demonstrating the district’s commitment to ensuring safe and accessible learning environments for all Salem staff and students.
“I am so happy that the Mayor and School Committee are making efforts to improve building safety and cleanliness,” said Beth Anne Cornell, a parent of a Carlton Elementary student who will be attending Collins Middle School next year. “Especially after the year we all went through with COVID, these efforts will ensure we can keep the focus on the education of our children - not the condition of our facilities.”
The agreement also makes a significant investment in the paraprofessionals working in the district. By the end of the agreement, these critical support staff will make $25,000 a year, enough to qualify as a living wage, as outlined by the Massachusetts Institute for Technology living wage calculator for two adults working with one child. With the Massachusetts private sector minimum wage increasing to $15 an hour by 2023, this deal, which brings our paraprofessionals to $22 an hour, helps keep wages competitive and acknowledges the challenging work done by these essential workers.
“I am grateful to the members of the Salem Teachers Union bargaining team and the Salem Public School district team, for the many long hours of discussions that went into this important agreement,” said Mayor Kim Driscoll, who chairs the Salem School Committee. “This contract maintains our strong commitment to supporting our students and the hard work of the teachers and staff who work in our schools, in particular our paraprofessionals who add another layer of support to the classroom and foster greater inclusion in our schools while providing students with more opportunities for one-on-one support.”
Other innovative achievements by the School District and Salem Teachers Union reflected in the new contract include:
  • A shared commitment to fully staff schools with sufficient support staff, mental health counselors, therapists, and other educators.
  • Joint efforts to improve school libraries and library collections.
  • Structures and incentives to recruit and retain a more diverse teaching force.
  • A focus on safe and healthy school buildings for students and staff.
  • Continued investment in the development of future district educators and leaders from within the existing workforce.
  • A reimagined and restructured daily schedule to better support Salem High School students.
  • Outdoor and community learning spaces throughout the school district, building on the efforts of Salem’s Safer Outside community effort.
  • A continued commitment to providing Salem’s students and teachers with sufficient classroom supplies.
“This agreement builds on work the district has been doing to engage parent and teacher voices,” said Superintendent Dr. Stephen Zrike. “With this agreement being settled, we are now positioned to focus on the fall and have the best reopening possible.”

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