TASH Files Charges Against District

Posted on 26 December 2009

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The Teacher’s Association of Sag Harbor (TASH) President Eileen Kochanasz revealed on Friday, December 18, that TASH would file formal charges against the Sag Harbor School District for bargaining in bad faith. NYSUT, the teacher’s union representatives, helped draft the charges over the weekend and by Wednesday, December 23, the charges were formally submitted to the New York State Public Employees Relations Board (PERB).

Above: TASH president Eileen Kochanasz speaking to fellow members of NYSUT at a rally in late October.

Unlike civil matters which are argued in court, TASH’s charges against the district will be reviewed, presided over and a final verdict will be rendered by PERB.

“This is the first time [TASH is filing charges against the district],” said Kochanasz on Friday. “We haven’t done this before because it is hard to come up with substantive evidence but we have it now.”

TASH filed two separate charges. The first alleges the district demanded that TASH agree to the district’s proposals in two key areas before returning to the bargaining table in September. Kochanasz stated in a press release distributed Wednesday that “the concessions the District sought hadn’t even been recommended by the Fact Finder in his report less than a month earlier.”

The second charge includes a number of alleged actions taken by the board which TASH believes meets the criteria of bargaining in bad faith.

In the release, Kochanasz claims the board hasn’t authorized its representatives to bargain at scheduled negotiation sessions, while it has established pre-conditions to bargaining and presented proposals which were less favorable to TASH than previous ones.

“[The board's] lack of urgency since February of 2008 in these negotiations has been self-evident, and their assurances to the public that they would ‘negotiate through the night and fully authorize their negotiators to bargain’ ring false and hollow in the face of their actions,” asserted Kochanasz in the release.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management defines good faith bargaining as “the duty to approach negotiations with a sincere resolve to reach a collective bargaining agreement, to be represented by properly authorized representatives who are prepared to discuss and negotiate on any condition of employment, to meet at reasonable times and places as frequently as may be necessary and to avoid unnecessary delays, and, in the case of agency, to furnish upon request data necessary to negotiation.”

Conversely, the Director of Public Employment Practices with PERB, Monty Klein, characterized “bad faith bargaining” as the absence of a sincere desire of one party to reach an agreement with another party.

“We [the district] certainly believe that we have bargained in good faith and will continue to bargain in good faith,” responded school superintendent Dr. John Gratto in an interview last week. “They [TASH] are alleging that we have bargained in bad faith. Basically their contention is that we need to offer more money.”

“It is an unproductive waste of time and money to pursue this. Really, the issue is that we disagree,” claimed Dr. Gratto.

Dr. Gratto first heard of TASH’s plans through the rumor mill late last week. He met with Kochanasz on Friday and said he urged TASH to abandon the charges.

“Even if PERB sides with the teachers, they would probably direct us back to the bargaining table. PERB can’t make any decisions about what the district should offer,” noted Dr. Gratto.

Klein confirmed that bargaining in good faith doesn’t require an agreement to a particular proposal but speaks to adhering to a process of bargaining. A ruling in this type of case, added Klein, seeks to bring the parties to a position they would have been in had there not been a breech in good faith bargaining.

“This is another tactic to try and force the board to move from their positions that they think are fair towards positions TASH thinks are more favorable,” stated Dr. Gratto. “The board has clearly thought through their proposals and the long term impact of them. Despite the pressure tactics of tee-shirts, personal attacks picketing and filing charges, the board’s position is clearly thought through.”

Klein explained that he will review the charges and then assign the case to an administrative law judge with PERB. This judge schedules an off-the-record pre-hearing conference with both parties to ascertain the issues at hand and see if it can be resolved. If the parties fail to reach a voluntary settlement at this point, the case istransferred to a different judge who issues a formal decision. The pre-hearing conference is scheduled around six-weeks after the charges are first received by PERB. Klein noted that the average case is resolved in about a year, but added that this time frame depends on the particularly case.

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26 Responses to “TASH Files Charges Against District”

  1. Art says:

    This whole thing is both sad and embarrassing. I am sure the tension and resentment is not doing the students any good. It also seems to tip the debate in the favor of private schools for those who can afford it. What are we really teaching our children here. For the school our teachers are the most important component and should be recognized as such. Why is there such massive concern over paving parking lots and none for our teachers? There must be more effort put forth to find an equitable solution. As for the teachers if you don’t care for your employer maybe the only answer is to do what everyone else does in this situation and find a better job. Perhaps it is time to teach the school board a lesson although I am told you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I really doubt that filing legal charges will help bring about a solution but at least the lawyers will get what they want…

  2. Resident says:

    What is the school board doing to this great school? We all need to start going to meetings!

  3. dorothy sherry says:

    I feel that the teachers who are asking for more money at this time are not watching the times they are living in…I know it is pricy to live out here in this area but everything I hear the teachers are paid above what other workers are paid out here….as for what someone said that the children will suffer..I doubt that as teachers should understand that taking it out on students will not be what the world thinks of teachers…giving their best to their students is the way for teachers to think….maybe the school board is taking into account the times and the amount that taxpayers will have to take on. Anyway I do hope that they will understand the times and settle with the board…

  4. been there done that says:

    I think the tee shirts in front of k-12 grade(4-18 yr old kids)STUDENTS is a disgrace,shows the true character of these Bullies,and it should be illegal to demonstrate in SCHOOL period!LAW SUIT THEM FOR DEMONSTRATING IN FRONT OF CHILDREN ON SCHOOL GROUNDS and WITHOUT PARENTS PRESENT!!As for this law suit Dr.Gratto is clear and right about this being a bunch of babies crying because they have been told time and time again that the school district is offering a FAIR and overly compensated contract…if you personally can not live off this salary…then look for another job!
    my husband went to school with ed hayes…my kids went to school with walts…these are about the best you could possibly get to represent the district…personally thank God we have board members like these two ….do not give in to any of the bully tacticts that have gone on for decades in that school!!!

  5. Barbara says:

    Thank you “been there done that”………this whole greedy spectacle has been disgraceful. Some of these teachers should walk in the shoes of people who don’t HAVE any jobs.
    There is no excuse for wanting “over the top” compensation in the current economy………are students supposed to look up to these teachers?????? Learn from their example??? Very sad.

  6. two sides says:

    Has it ever occurred to anyone that the problem with the contract negotiations might not be about money. There is more to a teacher contract than a salary scale. Perhaps the teachers really care about the students and the well-being of the district and are fighting against things the Superintendent wants to change regarding how the students are educated. Remember, the Superintendent is the one that stated, should Middle School Counselor Carl Brandl take a job elsewhere, he would not be replaced, and the Board had no idea he was making that unilateral decision. Luckily the Board President Wilcoxen corrected Gratto’s hastiness at a Board meeting, stating because he is “new” he was unaware of the community’s feelings about the position. Dr. Gratto is the only district representative, other than the highly paid attorney, who is in negotiations so who knows what else he is putting on the table.

  7. Elementary School Parent says:

    What does this teach the kids? How about standing up for what you believe in? How about not giving up? How about overcoming obstacles? How about fair play?

    Having pre-conditions BEFORE returning to the bargaining table is not good faith. It is underhanded and stinks of bullying.

    The administrators, in these economic times, wanted to spend more than $1 million on creating more parking spaces around the schools. And because they included this little pet project the entire proposal, including money intended for truly necessary repairs, was voted down. So our administrators are not mental antelopes, but hopefully they realize as parents we love our teachers and would love for them to focus solely on teaching but recognize the need for resolution of their contract.

    I, for one, will be asking to purchase a t-shirt and will organize other parents to do the same.

  8. Kevin Major says:

    The next BOE meeting is to be held on January 4th, 2010. Show up, let your voice be heard. This situation needs to be settled. It is certainly not good for our children to be witnessing this long, drawn out process. Education is the key to the future well being of all of us. I’ve asked before, and I’ll ask again. Let the “negotiation talks” be open to the public. That way we can see first-hand who is trying and who isn’t. I know serious people on both sides of the issue. I understand that there is willingness to achieve a contract. I also know. “willingness without action is fantasy”.

  9. Harriet says:

    Penny Wise- Pound Foolish / Worst School Board Award goes to Sag Harbor

    I am quite surprised to see people such as Dorothy and Barbara
    writing about teachers positions in contract negotiations as being based solely on monetary increases- are you kidding about over-the-top compensation? (and Barbara, PLEASE-some of these teachers HAVE walked in the shoes of the unemployed as their spouses have lost their jobs- how narrow minded can we get? Your bias and lack of information is clearly showing!) Please take the time to inform yourselves by speaking to people on “both” sides of this polarized hot bed. Read everything- not selectively feeding your assumptions- Salary was only one small item on the table, and by no means one of the biggest concerns.(Although goodness knows this board has NO qualms about spending taxpayers money unnecessarily on parking and astroturf and don’t forget the more than $85,000 and counting- of YOUR tax dollars for legal fees to “fight” with teachers- a $25,000 raise (after barely a few months of work to the superintendent and close to $200,000 salary for their pet superintendent. (Now THAT is over-the-top-) we all KNOW how important things like PARKING are to the growing minds of children.)You took a minute to write to this online column- Now take a few more minutes to learn about the more pressing issues lest your mouths have a rather podiatric aftertaste when you see the bigger picture. Teachers are paid what most people should be paid for the job they do and the ongoing education they need to do it. Those teachers who have invested 30 years in their specialty are compensated accordingly- teachers without that valuable and irreplaceable experience make much less-as they are mentored by those who are more experienced. Most teachers I know do not have a problem with adjusting to the times in monetary terms. Too bad this issue is being slanted and used by naysayers… The truth will come out…Sorry to see so many sour grapes out there – but do you know the meaning of fair? This particular board has members on it with a personal agenda. Do you know that some board members have never spent time in the elementary school at all?( their children went to private school) What a tragedy- because anyone who has experienced it first hand knows what a valuable gem it is! And so do the people who have taken their children out of pricey private schools and entrusted their children’s education to Sag Harbor Schools!
    Regarding this board competency and trustworthiness – Notice how they “transparently”
    (I am being ironic) they ushered in their mercenary superintendent- (somehow fits- someone who is hired to do a job – ANY job_ for money) a man with more negative press in his career past than most would care to believe,a man who has spent NO time in a classroom EVER- ( taught gym in a prison for 2 years)-Someone who has no personal or emotional investment in our town or our school or our community. Do you want to talk about being paid over-the-top? Look no further than what the board thinks is appropriate for this man. Was it responsible of this board to hire this man? The community did not think so! They were up in arms about the way it was done- with NO input from the community!
    This is truly THE WORST SCHOOL BOARD this district has ever seen. They are solely responsible for attempting to bulldoze one of the finest schools in New York State- for their own personal agendas.
    It is becoming increasingly apparent that their PENNY WISE- POUND FOOLISH strategy is going to ultimately undermine the entire community. If you think this is about teachers wanting a small raise or any raise for that matter- you might want to think again-
    I personally have been delighted with the increase in my property values that have been a direct result of our fine school and it ires me to think that this highly incompetent board is doing their best to destroy this HEN that lays GOLDEN EGGS just to eat a little more chicken meat and cheap stuff a pillow. If you are concerned about what is BEST for your children, grandchildren and your community, you would do well to look a little deeper, and try a little harder to understand what is beneath the surface and what the outcome will be if this board is allowed to continue to play their games.

  10. Average Man says:

    IMHO: I am not aware of all the facts relating to this contract negotiation, but what I do know is that the next few years may prove to be very difficult for us all. Unemployment reported at 10 % is just false. Just think about the construction business, many workers were paid “off the books” and are not included, nor are the self employed real estate agents , mortgage brokers , or the under employed, etc that are now hurting. More like 20% with little to no chance of improvement as far as the eye can see. The only difference between now and The Great Depression is our safety net of Unemployment and Food stamps, etc. Just look at the homeless situation in suffolk county and check out the food pantries. This is a time for those charged with the public good (school boards for example) to draw the line. Tighten the belts NOW. It will preserve teachers jobs later. Our Tax burden will increase no matter what, it should not be exacerbated by salary INCREASES to any one. The case can be made to allow attrition to thin the herd of ALL public employees… thanks for listening.

  11. two sides says:

    Average Man, it’s funny how very few people can remember that when the economy was “fat”, so was the paycheck of those East End construction workers, real estate agents, and brokers. If you choose a job that can either have huge payoffs or lean times, that’s your choice and you should prepare for such. Why should public employees who receive the same minimal yet steady raises have to cut back during “lean” times when they don’t receive big bonuses or pay bumps during the “fat” times. Sometimes slow and steady wins the race. And please remember – these stalled negotiations are likely about much more than salary – ask around and you might be surprised.

  12. rembrandt says:

    Sag Harbor is a great school and has been for years but lately I have some concerns when I see and hear what is going on. I am not bothered by the shirts as much as the reason why they are being worn. I am a painting contractor and now out of work but years ago I could have been a teacher and choose not to put the time, energy, nor money into furthering my education. It is easy to complain about what others make. $85.00 or more a hr. for a plumber to walk into your house and the same for an auto mechanic to work on your car. I don’t mind paying my plumber or auto mechanic because they are good at what they do so why should I give less to my children’s teachers.
    How do you pass over a proven leader like Joan Frisicano and hire a person who has little to no experience in a school district. This does not make sense and personally drives me crazy!!!
    Negotiations are about give and take, talking things over and compromising. Is it the teachers, the board or could it be the man at the top, who are not willing to engage in a real negotiation. From what I have seen, read and heard, the teachers are willing to negotiate so where do you think the problem is??
    Why is it the superintendant gets a 13.5 raise after one year, when the teachers & custodians get nothing. If there is truly budgetary concerns then why not hold back on everyone and why not be equal to all.
    To keep the Sag Harbor schools strong we all need to have a watchful eye. Schools are about children and educating them. They need to feel secure, happy and challenged and that takes a lot of preparation and work. The staff in any school needs to be competent, work together and most of all feel appreciated. After all they are the ones who pull together to educate our children.
    One question for the board: When looking for a superintendant were you looking for someone with the experience to motivate and lead the school and staff or someone strictly to cut costs? If that is the case, you could have hired someone for a lot less money.
    Let’s all keep our ears and eyes opened wide. Let’s not give anything away but let’s be fair.

  13. TOWN says:

    Does it bother anyone else that the entire board of education and the superintendent do not have any educational experience? None of them were or are teachers.

    How can we have people who have never taught make educational decisions for our district and kids? How did this happen?

  14. Harriet says:

    Dear Town, You make a good point- When Walter Tice (who was a well seasoned former educator) was on the board, the relationship between the community and the board, as well as the educators and the board was strong and solid. While there were issues to be ironed out,(such is life),there were no outrageous increases for teachers,fairness reigned and difficulties were resolved in a reasonable fashion. Respect was apparent ALL around. I just want to point out,however, that one current board member IS a teacher in East Hampton School and ironically HE enjoys better pay scale and benefits than the educators at the school whose board he serves on in SH district…So, I suppose we can add HYPOCRISY to the Sag Harbor School Board’s growing list of serious deficiencies?

  15. new ideas says:

    If these negotiations are much more than salary, then please tell us what the other issues are. We are able to attend the BOE meetings and ask the Board questions, but why are there no sessions to ask TASH questions? Since this issue is now so public, I would like to hear more ideas on how to settle this. Please tell us what are the sticking points. Where are the differences in opinion?

    Everyone needs to be reminded that the teachers are getting raises even without this contract settled… their old contract stays in place until the new one is settled upon.

    I love the teachers that I have had the pleasure of meeting so far at the Elementary school, and know that they are real gems in our community. I do believe they deserve the best compensation possible. Because they are paid from our tax dollars, there also needs to be accountability for those salaries and benefits.

    There are so many rumors, so much mud-slinging, I hope we can get through this mess by hearing more facts. Would Bryan Boyhan be able to hold a sort of, “meet the candidates” with BOE members, Dr. Gratto, and the representives from TASH and NYCUT? We could hear statements from each side then submit anonymous questions on 3×5 cards to be answered. Would both sides agree to such a meeting? Wouldn’t that be great rhetoric?

  16. Elementary School Parent says:

    Fabulous idea NEW IDEAS, maybe the Express can lay out each issue and show us where each side stands. That is, of course, if the two sides can agree on what they can’t agree on!

    Does anyone else get the feeling the Board does not play well with others?! Is there a way to give them a timeout?!

  17. rembrandt says:

    Yes Harriet,
    You are right when you point out Easthampton teachers make more money then our teachers. In fact all our teachers are asking for is be somewhere in the middle range of the surrounding districts. I was able to obtain this information at an open meeting given by the Sag Harbor Teachers Association.
    It was at this meeting that I first learned about the lack of negotiations on the board’s part. At that meeting there was a power point presentation showing discrepancies between the parties. I think at this point with the increased interest from parents and tax payers we may want to ask the teachers to again offer an informative meeting where they can again present ALL OF THE FACTS!

  18. new ideas says:

    Yes! Let’s hear the facts!!!

  19. new ideas says:

    this was an idea someone else had long ago… The BOE and TASH should read the book, “Getting to YES” and implement the suggestions. Here’s a link and the first 4 points to help spur interest with a summary… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_to_YES.
    Step 1-4 reads:
    1. “Separate the people from the problem”
    2. “Focus on interests, not positions”
    3. “Invent options for mutual gain”
    4. “Insist on using objective criteria”

  20. new ideas says:

    ok, if “getting to yes” doesn’t work, let’s try “getting past no”: Here’s a few excerpts:

    * Use a third party to promote negotiation, stop attacks, educate the other side

    * Aim for mutual satisfaction not victory

    * Forge a lasting agreement

  21. Consider This says:

    For New Ideas, TASH has held several information sessions for the public to present facts and data and to provide answers for community members.The “sticking point” is and always has been that Gratto and the BOE refuse to negotiate and have stuck to their take it or leave it approach to the process. It’s their way or the highway. That’s NOT negotiating! Also, IT IS NOT TRUE THAT ALL TEACHERS ARE GETTING RAISES without this contract being settled. In Sag Harbor, teachers between 20 and 25 years of service are frozen and do not receive the step increment. They only get the percentage increase that is negotiated and that has not occured for now the second year. It is sad that Gratto and the BOE have dismissed input from the arbitrator, from the fact finder, and now in the article above Gratto has already decided that getting input from PERB is “unproductive and a waste of time”. Does this sound like a group that wants to be fair and reasonable?

  22. new ideas says:

    Neither group is proceeding fairly and reasonably.

  23. Consider This says:

    New ideas suggests, as per the book “Getting to Yes”, using a third party to promote negotiations…H-E-L-L-O…an arbitrator, a fact finder, PERB!!!! TASH has been, IS, trying to do just that. Take your “new” ideas to the BOE.

  24. new ideas says:

    Consider this… it is hard to talk rationally with someone who’s tone and manner are so hostile. Rise above the antics and be the better person. Ah… possibly this is a good book to read!: How to be a better person, by Joel Osteen!… oh shoot, but there is separation of church and state in public schools… and oh yes, the first point says we are also supposed to separate people from the problem altogether.
    Those third parties you mentioned did not work… so perhaps try a “NEW” one! …Don’t blast me!… It is just an idea.
    The rest of that point you are questioning, also says to stop attacks, and educate the other side. Perhaps TASH can educate us (that is within the realm of your profession?) about how we can sustain the pay increases without raising taxes and so future budgets do not get voted down; so we can feel more like a team, rather than opposing sides, working to promote well-being for the entire community, and especially the kids and the future we will ultimately be responsible for. I believe it is fair in times like these to consider new ideas for cost savings rather than cost increases. Have a wonderful day!

  25. Consider This says:

    Hostile???You should reread YOUR post. My words were no personal attack on you…I really did mean take your ideas to the BOE because truly USING a third party “to promote negotiation” is an idea that you and I both agree on. It’s the BOE that hasn’t bought it on at least two occasions so far. Regarding taxes in the Harbor…read the article in Newsday Friday January 15 page E12 on real estate. A house in Woodbury on the market for $2.799 million the taxes are $43,000.!!! Baldwin Harbor on the market for $485,000. taxes are $14,127.00!!! Shirley for $234,500. taxes are $6,387.00!! Nesconset for $399,000. taxes are $8,286. A house in the Harbor at $699,000. a whopping $3,600.!!! I did have a wonderful day, thank you! I hope you did as well!

  26. new ideas says:

    Point taken, I admit I got a little defensive, but it was not intended to be read that way. One should remember how hard it is to communicate inflections through written words, and how they are often misconstrued. (i.e. typing in caps is often taken as yelling, even though it may be meant only to emphasize the word.)

    I feel compelled to comment on the real estate tax issue. I believe there are many problems with comparing home values and tax bases to other areas on Long Island. One is that the home values out here do not necessarily reflect the homeowners ability to buy that home; more or less pay the taxes on it! For instance, there is no way my family could afford to buy a home out here now. We bought our home before the boom and feel very fortunate, but now are completely strapped due to cost of living, and lack of work. Not just taxes, but everything else, too. If we were forced to sell our home then we would have to move out of state as we could just not afford to buy here at this time. So, one needs to take into account the overall demographics of the community, as well as, long term affects of cost increases. I have high hopes that we will be able to keep the wonderful people we have in our community here for generations to come.
    Thank you.


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