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Fresh Start

Posted on 27 June 2010

Though contract negations between the Sag Harbor School Board and the teacher’s union (TASH) remain at a virtual stand-still, we are heartened that the events of this week might go a long way toward loosening up the log-jam that has led to impasse.

That’s because just yesterday, the judge assigned to look at TASH’s PERB (Public Employment Relations Board) charges against the school board in the negotiation process has done something very logical. He has assigned a super conciliator to get involved in the process. He has also found one that both the board and TASH have agreed to work with.

This process has been much like a long and nasty divorce and at times, has seemed like it will never come to an end. Because binding arbitration doesn’t exist in school negotiations, a super conciliator is the closest thing we can get to an outside entity to help render a settlement. Lying beyond the realm of mediators and fact finders, super conciliators are considered the last option both boards and unions can exhaust in coming to a resolution.

And unlike mediators and fact finders, who listen to both sides and make recommendations, a super conciliator can really get involved in the meat of the matter and aggressively negotiate a settlement between the two sides.

We feel it’s high time the district resorted to this “gloves off” approach to bringing this thing to resolution and are puzzled why it took so long — we thank the judge for making it happen. And like a drawn out divorce, with both sides so firmly entrenched in their positions and rhetoric and this new player on the scene, we think it might make sense to change the face of those doing the negotiating as well.

Unlike a divorce case, where the personalities on either side are pretty much stuck with the other, school board and union personnel ebb and flow. There are two newly elected board members taking their seats next month — Chris Tice and Ed Drohan — who hopefully will bring some fresh perspective to the process. On the other side of the negotiating table is teacher Jim Kinnier and guidance counselor Eileen Kochanasz, who have been the voices of TASH in recent years. Kochanasz has announced she’s taking a retirement package and will leave her position in the district. Though Kochanasz has agreed to stay on to continue with the negotiation, we wonder if it might be time for TASH to consider bringing in fresh faces to its leadership as well.

Given the history here, it might do all sides some good — it certainly couldn’t hurt the process.



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