By Tessa Raebeck
The Sag Harbor Board of Education announced at its annual reorganizational meeting on Monday that it had reached a contract agreement with the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH).
With unanimous approval from the board, the contract was settled before the current one expires for the first time in recent memory and only the second time in the district’s history.
“It was a sign of all of us working together collaboratively and we’re proud to have all of you in the district teaching our children,” Theresa Samot, president of the school board, said Monday.
The last contract negotiations took over two years and became quite heated, with teachers protesting the lack of a settlement by wearing black t-shirts to school for months. After the contracts expired in August 2008, the union and the school district did not decide on a new agreement until December 2010.
The new three-year contract is in effect from July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2017. The agreement between the district and the union will increase the 2013-14 salary schedule by 0.7 percent. For each of 2014-15 and 2015-16, salaries will be increased by 0.75 percent.
During the term of the three-year contract, TASH members will contribute 17.5 percent of the premium costs for employee health and dental insurance, the same amount they’ve been paying since July 1, 2010. Starting June 30, 2017, members of TASH will have to contribute 20 percent of those costs.
“I just want to say thank you and how happy we are that we have settled this contract and approved it tonight,” said Ms. Samot.
Chris Tice, vice president of the school board, added the contract is “respectable both to the needs of the district and of the employee.”
The increases are significantly lower than those in the previous contract, which retroactively gave teachers a 2.5-percent salary increase for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years, a 2.65-percent increase for the 2010-11 school year, a 2.7-percent increase for 2011-12 and a 2.6-percent increase for 2012-13.
“Finalizing the contract agreement through 2017 is a very good way to begin the new school year,” the district’s new Superintendent Katy Graves, who was sworn in at the meeting Monday, said in a press release. “It clearly shows the strong relationship and common goals shared between the board, administration and teachers union.”
Also at Monday’s meeting, Ms. Graves and new school board member Diana Kolhoff took the oath of office.
Having just finished her ninth year on the board, Ms. Samot was again elected president on a motion brought by Ms. Tice and seconded by Susan Kinsella.
“I just want to thank Theresa because most people don’t realize how much time it takes to be president,” said Ms. Tice, adding, “Your dedication is very appreciated and you’ve done a great job.”
Board member David Diskin said how important it is in this period of transition—with a new superintendent and several administrative positions to fill—to have Ms. Samot return to her leadership position.
Ms. Kinsella nominated Ms. Tice to again be vice president, a motion that was seconded by Mr. Diskin.
The board meeting Monday was the first one to be filmed, although not broadcast, in the trial period of the district’s new videotaping of board meetings policy, which aims to increase transparency and public access to the goings-on of the school board. Future meetings will also be broadcast live on LTV and SEA-TV.
Ms. Graves told the small crowd gathered in the Pierson Middle/High School library that, having worked in the district for only four days, she was unable to share her entry plan just yet, but would provide a detailed plan of action at the July 28 board meeting.
The board appointed J. Wayne Shiernat as interim athletic director, filling the position left vacant by Todd Gulluscio’s resignation last month. Mr. Shiernat worked part time in the district prior to the hiring of Mr. Gulluscio two years ago.
“He’s going to be part time and he’ll be starting immediately tomorrow, because we are working without an athletic director at this time and a lot of very important scheduling items happen at this time,” Ms. Graves said.
Mr. Shiernat will work for four hours a day, five days a week at a daily rate of $325, with a maximum pay of $35,750. He will act as interim for up to 110 days from Tuesday, July 8, through December 19.
The board debated whether it is financially pertinent and necessary to have a full-time athletic director. Ms. Kolhoff suggested looking at sharing services with the Bridgehampton School District, but Ms. Graves said they had already reached out to that district but had not heard back yet.
“We have to proof sharing, we have to,” added Ms. Graves, “and maybe this is the part where we start.”
Board member Daniel Hartnett worried that having a full-time athletic director would require funds that could be used to keep the district’s 62 teams strong and intact and benefit the children more directly.
Former board member Mary Anne Miller, on the audience side of the meeting for the first time in years, and community member John Battle stressed the importance of addressing the health and wellness portion of the position.
In the end, the district decided to move forward with the applications it has received using a similar job description to that under which Mr. Gulluscio was hired, as director of Athletics, Physical Education, Health, Wellness and Personnel.
“My recommendation with my four days here is to do what’s best for kids and that is to provide as much leadership as possible,” said Ms. Graves.