• Rutland Town teachers picket school
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    Photo courtesy of WCAX

    Rutland Town School teachers Jeff Bender, Marcia Barron and Karen Pezzetti stand along Post Road on Tuesday morning with signs asking the School Board to return to the negotiating table in hopes of settling a contract.
    Rutland Town teachers picketed Tuesday morning and plan to picket every morning this week at the grade K-8 school in hopes of reviving halted contract negotiations.

    About two dozen teachers stood along Post Road in the drizzling rain holding signs that read, "Bullying is wrong at any age," "Tell the board to talk" and "No teacher left behind."

    The display lasted half an hour, from 7:15 to 7:45 a.m., and teachers called the move "informational picketing."

    One of the signs with several variations read "Rutland City settled. We can too," referring to a new three-year contract solidified last week that provides 3 percent raises each year until 2012 for members of the Rutland Education Association.

    Last week, negotiations in Rutland Town ended abruptly with the board imposing a contract on teachers that includes step increases, but no salary increases on the base for one year.

    Randy Dewey, a sixth-grade teacher and negotiator for the educators, said the picketing "is nothing that will interfere with the education process" and the goal is to simply "raise awareness in the community that we have not reached a contract."

    Dewey said the picketing was over before school buses arrived; however, he did hear a student comment in the hallway, "I saw you protesting."

    "That was his word, not mine and certainly not a description of what we are doing," Dewey said Tuesday afternoon.

    Jodi Manning, president of the Rutland Town Education Association, also said the students aren't part of it. "We're keeping them out of it. It's an issue between the teachers and school board."

    She said the purpose of the picketing is to ask the board to reverse its decision to impose the contract.

    "We would like them to return to the bargaining table to negotiate a settlement that is fair for all," she said, adding that besides people beeping and waving Tuesday morning, she also received a lot of e-mails and phone calls of support from community members.

    Teachers plan to hold "informational picketing" all week starting at 7:15 a.m., but will be in the classrooms and ready to go before the kids get there, Manning said.

    John Paul Faignant, attorney for the School Board, said the board's reaction to the picketing "is one of bewilderment." He said teachers could have chosen Saturday to picket instead of a weekday, to ensure children are not exposed to it.

    "Why would teachers think they need to put the schoolchildren through this?" Faignant asked Tuesday.

    As far as negotiating goes, Faignant said if teachers want a multiyear contract and are willing to accept what the board wants this year, then the board wants the same thing.

    He said there is a negotiating session on June 8 between board members and teachers and therefore doesn't understand why teachers are misleading the public with signs that read, "Tell the board to talk."

    "They've known about the meeting prior to putting their signs out. So for them to suggest to the public that we're not talking to them, I just don't get it," he said.


    Reporter Cristina Kumka contributed to this report.
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