Hamilton Schools educators union talks end; Superintendent says district had great opening to new year

The leader of Hamilton Schools told his governing school board Thursday evening he has been involved with the opening of various public-school systems for more than three decades but the recent start of classes in the city was the best he had ever seen.

Mike Holbrook, superintendent of the 9,000-student Hamilton Schools, said the uneventful start to the new school year was due to the work of many throughout the city schools.

“In 32 years this is one of the smoothest openings I’ve experienced as a teacher, as a building administrator and a central office administrator,” said Holbrook.

Adding to the operational effectiveness of the class opening was the wrapping up earlier this month of the at-times divisive teacher contract talks that in June saw hundreds of Hamilton teachers picket outside the district’s headquarters in a rare, public protest for the city schools.

ExploreVideo & story: Teachers protest at contract talks outside of Hamilton City Schools’ central office

“After a fairly contentious negotiation with the … (teachers union), I’m happy to say we came to an agreement that I think all of us are happy that it’s over.”

The recently approved, three-year collective bargaining agreement pact for the district’s approximately 800 teachers saw the instructors gain a one-time 5% lump sum payment based on their 2021-2022 salary.

Moreover, the contract calls for 1% raises for each of the next three school year, which comes on top of individual “step increases” in pay for many teachers based on their seniority, advanced education degrees and various specialized professional teaching certifications.

“It fairly compensates our teachers … and recognizes them for the very difficult times during the unprecedented pandemic,” he told the board. “And that is really important to us.”

Like many other area school systems, Hamilton again used a staggered start for its opening class schedule where only half the students attending the initial day of classes to better ease into the 2022-2023 school year.

He said the move, which is a holdover from some of the more turbulent school years since the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020, “allowed students who were new in the buildings to build a relationship with staff.”

“We saw some anxiety levels reduced by having a staggered start.”

In other school board action, members along Holbrook, honored departing Hamilton Schools Treasurer Robert Hancock, who has handled the finances for the city schools for more than 28 years.

In that time, Hancock has been widely credited for not only bringing stability to the district’s annual operating budgets but also praised by local officials for delivering the longest stretch – more than two decades – of the city schools not having to ask taxpayers for a new operating tax levy.

In presenting a honorary plaque of appreciation from the district, Holbrook relayed a story about Hancock’s first year – 1993 – as Hamilton’s treasurer where the positive balance was a relatively minuscule amount of just $678.

Holbrook said Hancock’s most recent reported “unencumbered balance” is more than $31 million.

Hancock’s expertise, he said, has been “extremely beneficial” for the city schools and all its students and staff over the decades.

Hamilton Board of Education President Laurin Sprague said to Hancock “it was always good to know you were at the helm when it came to finances.”

“Thank you very much for your dedication to this district.”

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