Teachers Union Protests Stalled Negotiations in Sag Harbor

Posted on 23 October 2009

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As the sun receded into the horizon of Sag Harbor Cove, TASH President Eileen Kochanasz climbed up a bench in front of the windmill on Long Wharf. “You have arrived in the land of ‘No’,” warned Kochanasz to the crowd. A group of nearly 600 met in the late afternoon on Long Wharf on Monday afternoon to march in a TASH rally from Main Street to the Pierson High School. Members of TASH donned their grey shirts and were joined by teachers from Lindenhurst to Montauk to protest a recent stalemate in contract negotiations with the Sag Harbor School Board of Education. Negotiations between the two parties begun over twenty months ago. Despite working with a mediator and fact finder, TASH and the board are no closer to a settlement. TASH asserts the board remains unwilling to negotiate or yield their original positions.

“The board said ‘no’ to the fact finder’s report . . . ‘no’ to setting a date for negotiations in the future,” continued Kochanasz, whose words of scorn for the board were met with boos from the crowd. “This is unacceptable.” (The board has since reached out to TASH and suggested three dates to restart the negotiations. Kochanasz confirmed on Wednesday that TASH agreed to meet with the board on either October 30 or November 3.) 

TASH March 10-19-09 Chant HQ

Richard D’Esposito, TASH’s representative from the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) union, took over the stage and read from a letter penned by NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi.

“Dear Sisters and Brothers on behalf of the 600,000 [members of NYSUT] . . . Your fight is our fight,” said D’Esposito reading from the letter. D’Esposito explained that he has represented TASH for nearly 17 years. He said he is often asked by reporters if the state of affairs with the Sag Harbor teacher negotiations is unique.

“It is unusual,” D’Esposito remarked to the crowd. “We haven’t concluded negotiations because they have yet to begin . . . True negotiations are a give and take . . . Since 2008, we have seen a presentation [from the board] rather than negotiations.”

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The board was further criticized by D’Esposito for rejecting the recommendations of the fact finder, who predominantly sided with the demands of the teachers, and claimed superintendent Dr. John Gratto discredited the fact finder’s expertise. Previously, school board president Walter Wilcoxen contended the fact finder privately admitted that he wasn’t given enough to conduct his report.

“That is patently untrue,” stated D’Esposito in a later interview as the wind off the bay waters whipped at his gray hair. The fact finder had around three days to review TASH and the board’s documentation and render a verdict on a settlement.

Once D’Esposito yielded the microphone to Kochanasz, she had a NYSUT representative point the way the group would take. With posters hoisted in the air, they traveled across the bridge, past La Superica, up Main Street, crossed the street at the Civil War Memorial, trekked down the other side of the sidewalk back to the Wharf and marched up to the Pierson High School campus as onlookers watched while eating dinner in restaurants or opening their cars.

At the school, TASH held a candlelight vigil which was cut short by freezing temperatures. The cold, however, failed to cool the teacher’s simmering resentments. During the board of education meeting held that evening, emotions were running high. Parents and teachers were strongly displeased that the board hasn’t solidified a date to begin negotiating again.

Wilcoxen argued that the board is still expanding the issues surrounding their position. Arranging a time for negotiations, he said, would have to be vetted with both the school’s representative and attorney, Tom Volz, and TASH’s representative, D’Esposito. He seemed certain that the two parties would negotiate in the near future.

Teacher Doug Alnwick remarked that he didn’t find the board to be unreasonable, but said he felt “disrespected” by the negotiation process.

“I applaud [the board] for wanting to investigate the process … but to do it now is like trying different recipes when your guests are already seated,” added teacher Michelle Grant, who added she was forced to take on a second job cleaning pools to pay off her student loans in excess of $120,000. Other’s comments took on a more personal note.

“You are beating me down,” stated guidance counselor Linda Aydinian.

According to teachers from other Suffolk County school districts, strained and long negotiations might become more commonplace as the economy remains depressed. Wayne Kubacki, a teacher with BOCES who stood on the grassy knoll of the Long Wharf, said this is the fifth rally he has attended in the last two years.

“They are becoming more of the norm because of the economic situation,” theorized Kubacki. Tom Franz, a teacher in the Eastport School District, reported that his last two contracts each took more than two years to negotiate.

D’Esposito shrugged off this claim and said he successfully negotiated contracts with larger school districts at the height of the economic melt down.

“In some places they recognize the tough times, but they also recognize fair trading,” added D’Esposito.

Kochanasz was “heart warmed” by the display of support on Monday but remained weary of the potential to negotiate with the school in the near future.

“I want to be more hopeful,” said Kochanasz. “[But] I am still reserving my excitement.”

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26 Responses to “Teachers Union Protests Stalled Negotiations in Sag Harbor”

  1. Art says:

    Had we gone easier on the developers for the watch case factory and maybe let the condos go up near the bridge and a few other little projects here and there the future taxes comming in could help pay our teachers but we are too smart…. We will spend our money on legal fees and keep our world from the very change we want our children to be taught.

  2. double d says:

    Art,
    I’m sure a few more hotels wouldn’t hurt. We could fit a few in the park. Then we could really pay them well. Imagine what a Motel 8 in marine park could net. Tell me what would you do with all the new sewage that would be generated. I guess it would be free to double the size of the sewer plant to accommodate this new waste. Keep in mind the system is already overloaded. Just raise taxes ?

  3. Art says:

    double d that is double dumb

  4. Dayo says:

    No doubt, education is vitally important. That said, many of these teachers are earnings $100K per year (with generous vacation time off). Well compensated to say the least, especially in these troubling economic times. Sorry, but I can’t support their views at all. Don’t cry me a song people. You do not get any sympathy.

  5. double d says:

    So is assuming renovating the Bulova building would solve our tax challenge. How many units you talking? Maybe a difference of ten bucks a house.
    I laugh when i see Save Sag Harbor stickers. You all haven’t got a clue. It’s been gone since Bulova closed and the Yankee clipper stopped coming.
    Since we couldn’t harpoon the whale anymore. Since you can’t have bicycle jumping contests in front of the pizza parlor. Since you can’t park in front of the store you want the day after Labor day. Since you could walk down Main street without getting a headache from that nasty burnt coffee smell that dominates most days. Since you can’t go to The American Hotel to see if your key will open the box. Finally. Since i can’t buy a pea shooter and bag of pea’s from the Ideal.( and shoot the base drum in the parade).
    Seriously though what about the sewage problem Art? It’s a real problem. You think the developers would pay to upgrade the system? Or would it end up costing more to our village tax base? Do you even have a clue what it would take?

  6. Elementary School Parent says:

    I don’t know the exact number of teachers making over $100K/year but I know it is not “many” – I remember hearing reference to one teacher but there could be more.
    The point is the teachers deserve a contract. In the midst of the worst economic downturn since the great depression Sag Harbor approved an expanded education budget and our schools (especially the Elementary School) are considered AMONG THE BEST IN THE STATE. Wnat to keep it that way? What is a more important responsibility to a society than to educate the next generation?
    Also, I felt the Opinion Page but too much of the blame of bringing in the larger Teacher’s Union on the teachers – it’s the chicken or the egg – if the School Board had acted in good faith the teachers would not have been forced to make that call. A call, by the way, that produced results.

  7. double d says:

    You think the teachers whining brought negotiations back to the table? My guess is our BOE took the time to gather factual relevant information to counter the teachers demands. For example the fact that our surrounding districts are twice as wealthy as us.
    The wealth assessment was used to compare us with the surrounding schools that the TEACHERS want us to follow.
    Teacher Jim Kinnear when faced with the fact that being compared to surrounding districts backfired simply went off in left field and said Sag Harbor ranks 15th in the state. Jim do you mean we should use the whole state to make a decision. You realize you will have to take a MAJOR cut in pay and benefits to have it that way.
    There is no excuse for involving children in their contract challenge.

  8. high school parent says:

    I was wondering if elementary parent has any children who have made their way across the street to middle/high school. For fear of retribution to my children I can not use my name. I am a parent with several children, several who have already graduated and others still in the school. Yes the elementary school is good but it is not the real world. It is Mary Poppins land. The children are not prepared at all. I know this from experience from my graduates who were not prepared for college or the real world at all. For once the Sag Harbor Express editorial hit the nail on the head! Are the people of the community aware that the senior teachers are refusing to write letters of recommendations for college bound students, and at least if they were not cowards (the teachers) and admitted they were upset about the the one paragraph the students stated in their chant about thier tee shirts and salary. Instead they try to say it has to do with the sex and drug comments which we all know is not true or maybe it’s the fact the Mr. Nicholas Supported the Seniors and not the teachers. But it is a fact they are not writing recommendations. Mr. Nicholas said it perfectly in his letter home to parents. “true character of people come out in trying times” and our teachers have really stepped to the lowest level. From speaking to many parents in the community I think we all agree with one thing the teachers should be like Dr. Gratto and not have tenure and get their raises based on how well they do on the job and how thier students do. I bet there would only be handful of teachers left. We all know many teachers are looking for good jobs. Maybe it’s time to get the deadwood out of our school and away from our children.

  9. Sag Harbor teacher says:

    Your ignorance is obvious…among other things, the Principal is Mr. Nichols, not Nicholas! Are you sure that you really have children in the school? No wonder they are not prepared…

  10. Sag Harbor teacher says:

    Does “double d” have an M.A. + 20-30 years experience in their chosen field? I seriously doubt it; if they did, they would expect to be earning $100,000, or more, just like our colleagues in neighboring districts. Their grammar and syntax would also be better, as well!

  11. Elementary School Parent says:

    I have not had any children go through the high school but I can say that after moving out here full time from NYC our family. kids included, could not be happier with the Elementary School – and we were coming from “one of the best” public schools in artsy fartsy Downtown Manhattan.
    However, High School parent, while our teachers and schools are charged with educating the next generation I know from my own High School experience that, especially as they get older, students “get out of it what you put into it” and that motivation is the responsibility of the parents. To say “the children are not prepared at all” is ridiculous. I remember reading last year about two students that were finalists in the Intel Science Challenge after making discoveries that have real world applications TODAY! I mean these kids obviously had a love of learning (instilled by their parents) and used Pierson as a springboard to excel.
    As far as the recommendation letters I cannot imagine this is an across the board refusal to write letters for every Senior – but let me ask, how do you pen a recommendation letter for someone you don’t believe in? If every punk (not your kids High School parent but we all know they exist) is walking around with a glowing Letter of Recommendation what is the letter worth?
    And I also believe in case by case merit based raises

  12. This year I have written the most student recommendations ever. It is a record high. Please stop the rumor mill when inadequate evidence is available.

  13. This year I have written more student recommendations than I have ever written in the past. It is a record high for me. Please stop the rumor mill without concrete evidence.

  14. double d says:

    Sag Harbor Teacher,
    Does an M.A. with 20-30 years experience have the right to use other peoples children as leverage to manipulate their cause? You should be ashamed of yourselves. There is no legitimate excuse for such behavior.

  15. high school parent says:

    The ” punks ” you are refering to are ranked in the top ten of their class. Nice way to talk about other peoples kids. Be proud of yourself. You should educate yourself with the facts before you share your opinion.
    I have personally had a middle school teacher complain to me that the kids coming from across the street are not properly prepared for the middle school. You’ll soon see life after Disney Land.
    Good point with evaluations. Loose tenure and we will really have room for growth.

  16. Teachers are the ones being “used” by the children, as you say. But we enjoy it! Every teacher here works to their full capacity, helping students every moment of the day. Get a visitor’s pass and come see! Bring your misconceptions down from the clouds. Come into the school and witness the endless hard work each teacher offers daily for their students. There is not a moment wasted from the first to last bell. The teachers care about their students. Witness it personally before you propagate erroneously.

  17. double d says:

    You may be speaking for yourself. But you darn sure are not talking for all. If you say you speak for all. You are then your a liar. If you call me a liar. I will gladly forward the email in my possesion to the state BOE and let them deal with it. You pick the time with Jeff and Dr Gratto. I will be there. With my email. Go ahead. I would love to hear you read it to us.

  18. double d says:

    Pick on my grammer and spelling all you like. It beats manipulating my kids.

  19. ya think says:

    You live in the Hamptons which requires more and when you get more you want more becaseu more is more and then you just think you deserve more because everyone else has more so you need and you just more more more it is that easy…welcome to the Hamptons baby :)

  20. concerned citizen says:

    Just wondering if the Sag Harbor teacher should be teaching at the times they are posting here on the web. It scares me that teacher would be using thier valuable time
    writing and responding to other peoples opinions on the web instead of using this time for some positive work they should be doing to educate our children. Maybe your raise should be based on performance and not tenure.

  21. Elementary School Parent says:

    Being in the top 10% of the class does not preclude a kid from being a punk.

  22. Elementary School Parent says:

    Looks like lunchtime to me concerned

  23. double d says:

    Or any other. Including any you may have.
    Although i would disagree. Someday when yours get there you’ll see character plays a major role in their progression academically. Taking your attitude into concideration i think yours may be in trouble.Good Luck!

  24. I think teachers can still eat their lunch at noon – maybe that’s still on the table for negotiations

    double d needs a double dose of deep breaths; threats and scare tactics are for the lesser minds

  25. Resident, Parent & Teacher says:

    If this is how the conversations are going in our community, is it any wonder why we see such unproductive outcomes? This ridiculous behavior will get you nowhere in any forum. Strengthen your argument and stick to the topic.

    That said, both TASH and the Board of Education need to wake up here. Without going into my opinions on each of the issues in the negotiation, it is clear that both sides have chosen to defend some real and some nonsense issues. They both need to get some perspective, listen to how the community feels, then come back to the table with and understanding that they will have to compromise.

    Here’s the reality check. To the BOE: This debacle is costing money that would be better spent on our children and those who educate them. To TASH: The primary purpose for our schools is to educate our children, not provide you with a paycheck. For everyone else: Our children are watching. What do you think they are learning from all this?

  26. taxpayer says:

    The real issuse hear is,the school does provide you with a heafty paycheck already….maybe its time to clean house…get some fresh ideas…as a hands on parent of three children who have been through that school system[morning program for 13 years],I can tell you that its the wonderful community,parents,friends and neighbors that really raise the children”it takes a village”…….the teachers,,baisically in elementry “babysat”and the high school……well lets just say blind mice!!!stop taking the credit for all the work that parents and the rest of the community give everyday 365 days a year,not the 180 some odd half days of work you all do!very insulting marching 600 union gang members strong up and down main street…do you think all the shop keepers have contracts with the store clerks ,do the Deli workers get step increases every year with full health insurance…dispicable….and you do use the children its just that even they can see that now!!!!!so keep wearing your gray with pride …even though green seems to be more of your color!


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