New 3-year contract for Dover Teachers’ Union approved. Here’s what is in the deal.

Ian Lenahan

Fosters Daily Democrat

June 16, 2023

The three-year deal, approved Wednesday night by members of the City Council, includes a $2,250 raise for all of the union’s members, regardless of salary step, for the upcoming school year. 

DOVER — Salary increases for all city school district teachers, in addition to policy changes regarding educator personal days, highlight the new Dover Teachers Union contract.

“This allowed us to stay within the 2023-24 budget that was approved prior to the conclusion of negotiations,” said Lisa Dillingham, president of the union. 

Dover Teachers Union leader Lisa Dillingham rallies support for the school budget at Henry Law Park Wednesday, May 4, 2022.

In the second year of the deal, all union members will see a 3.5% cost-of-living adjustment, while the third year of the contract will bring a 3.25% wage increase. 

Union protests have occurred in the past as advocates pushed for higher wages, including most recently last year, when the school district and the Dover Teachers Union were at a months-long crossroads in contract talks.

“I’m quite impressed by the atmosphere and the nature of the discussions that seem to have gone on,” Deputy Mayor Dennis Shanahan stated on Wednesday prior to approval of the new contract. 

The union’s current contract will expire at the end of August. Beginning Sept. 1, the new three-year deal will take effect, slated to expire Aug. 31, 2026.

Details from Dover Teachers Union contract

Dillingham said in the past, just five teachers across the whole district could take a personal day on any given day. 

“In a district with more than 300 teachers, this was extremely limiting,” she said.

The union president said the new deal allows for upwards of 14 Dover teachers taking a personal day on the same day. That includes two teachers at each of three city elementary schools, four at Dover Middle School, and four at the high school.

The new contract will allow each teacher to have a full, non-student day before school opens in order to prepare their classrooms for the new academic year.

“We normally have to do this on our own time, but now it is built into the contract,” Dillingham said.

The three-year contract features 17 salary steps for Dover teachers.

Dillingham said only six preparation periods a month can be used for meetings required by the district. Should the number of mandated meetings exceed the allowable amount, teachers will be paid at their per diem rate.

“The new contract outlines the creation of three new task forces: One to look at extra and co-curricular stipends to establish clear criteria to explain why some activities are paid more than others, one to create specific job descriptions for academic coordinators and team leaders, and a third to explore a potential insurance buyout option for employees,” Dillingham said.

The three-year contract, including costs associated with wages, dental, medical and retirement benefits, Social Security and Medicare, is expected to cost over $129.5 million in its entirety.

Leslie Hocking, a Dover High School teacher and member of the union’s negotiation team, said “the past few years especially have been a challenging series of unknowns when it comes to teacher salaries.

“I’m excited about the prospect of offering my fellow teachers a chance for greater stability than they’ve had in the better part of a decade,” she said. “I’ve heard more than a few concerned colleagues (say) that they were relieved with the three-year tenure of the contract and I’m so glad that we can honor that request.”

A letter written by Dover schools Superintendent William Harbron to the union’s negotiating team was read aloud by Dillingham to the council before it voted on the contract.

“Your team’s preparedness, knowledge and willingness to engage in meaningful dialogue are evident during every meeting. Your genuine desire to find common ground and work towards a mutually beneficial agreement was truly remarkable. By fostering an environment of respect, open communication and collaboration, we were able to address various concerns, explore creative solutions and ultimately reach an agreement that meets the needs and aspirations of both the teachers and the district,” the letter states. 

The City Council unanimously approved the new contract, 8-0. It was sent to the council after the Dover School Board approved it May 22 following negotiations. Councilor Michelle Muffett-Lipinski was not present for the meeting. 

The council also unanimously approved a new three-year contract for the Dover Educational Office Personnel Union on Wednesday, worth nearly $5.4 million. The union’s current deal will expire at the end of the month, with the new one beginning July 1 and running until June 30, 2026. 

Councilor Debra Hackett and Shanahan both recused themselves from the vote due to having family members employed within the bargaining unit.

New contract negotiations between the Dover Paraeducators’ Association and the Dover School Board are at an impasse. The current deal between the two parties is set to expire Aug. 31.