Tag Archive | "Eileen Kochanasz"

Changing of the Garb

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web Teachers Shirts

“This is no longer about gray shirts … wearing them or not wearing them,” pronounced Teacher’s Association of Sag Harbor (TASH) President Eileen Kochanasz at the Sag Harbor School District’s board of education meeting on Monday, January 11. As her words reverberated throughout the Pierson High School library, the district’s teachers uniformly stood up and pulled off their gray shirts imprinted with the words “Year Two, No Contract” to reveal black ones with a new slogan, “Sag Harbor, District in Crisis.”

During a later interview, Kochanasz said the protest garb is meant to call attention to statements and actions allegedly made by the board, in regards to the tumultuous teacher contract negotiations, and to respond to public displeasure with the visibility of the gray shirts. The new black apparel will be worn by the teachers only on Monday and the educators will dress in regular attire for the rest of the school week. Kochanasz added that TASH members will continue to picket in front of school grounds on Fridays.

“[We were told by the public] if the shirts were not there, there would be more support. If we removed the shirts completely people would forget … The sole purpose [of the black shirts] is to keep the community aware that this issue is seriously unsettled for us,” said Kochanasz later in the week.

The new TASH garments are being met with disapproval by some parents in the community. Since TASH members arrived in the gray shirts on the first day of school in September, parent Laura Avedon said many parents repeatedly requested TASH wear regular clothes inside the classroom. She believes the new message might also be frightening for students especially those in the elementary school.

“The t-shirts are a menacing artifact of a dispute that belongs in the realm of adults only,” noted Avedon in an email. “When I got home from the Board of Education meeting . . . I had to explain to my elementary school daughter that tomorrow she was going to see new t-shirts on all her teachers, saying that the school district was in crisis. She was very concerned, since she knows the word crisis means a dire or life-threatening emergency. I explained to her that the district was not in crisis, and that no harm would come to her by going to school.”

Of the plan to only wear the shirts on Monday, Avedon said, “It should be no days a week. The children shouldn’t be involved … I think it harms them emotionally.”

A fellow parent, Glenn Lawton, added, “These semantics further fuel the polarity and only help to erode our collective ‘spirit.’”

Parent Bill Collage remarked, “I am very pro teacher. I think the gray t-shirts were very effective messaging and the penetration of the message is roughly 100 percent among the parents. The black t-shirts will be met with less regard, I’m willing to bet. I think the next great message in this process will be when they take the t-shirts off.”

Chris Tice added “I am supportive of a process where teachers have the right to publicly voice their position. I would prefer it not be done on shirts worn in front of our young children.”

Kochanasz said TASH members haven’t noticed the shirts negatively impacting the students adding that they are very sensitive and tuned into the children.

School superintendent Dr. John Gratto noted the teachers are allowed to dress in any manner they see fit as the teachers’ contract and the district policy doesn’t speak to attire.

For TASH, said Kochanasz, the black shirts merely hint at larger issues that have arisen since their contract expired in June 2008. Though the teachers’ contract expired, the provisions of the former contract will continue until a new one is settled. In a speech delivered at the board meeting on Monday, Kochanasz asserted the board discredited a Fact Finder’s report and his qualifications, saying he wasn’t given enough time to complete his work and his professional background focused on national sports leagues instead of school districts. In an interview, school board president Walter Wilcoxen noted the board felt the report was incomplete because the Fact Finder didn’t address all of the major issues and he was given just three days to submit his recommendations.

After learning that four teachers have submitted their resumes to neighboring school districts, Dr. Gratto said if he was in their position he would also apply elsewhere to make more money, claimed Kochanasz. In an interview, Dr. Gratto said he didn’t make that statement. Kochanasz noted, in her speech, that Dr. Gratto was awarded a 13.5 percent raise last June which she said is a “greater percentage raise in one year than the combined percentages of [the board's] offer to teachers over five years.”

But Kochanasz’s statement, contended Wilcoxen, doesn’t include a 2.7 percentage step increase, or additional money given for each year a teacher is employed in the district.

“In my opinion you have deliberately misled this community with your repeated assurances that your negotiators are prepared to stay all night to reach an agreement,’” added Kochanasz of negotiations so far. “Yet during our most recent sessions, we weren’t given one counter-proposal to any comprehensive proposal we made at the same session. It was always, ‘we have to adjourn to assess … or cost out.’”

“We have to cost out but they don’t,” argued Wilcoxen. “We came up with our best offer. We would love to come up with a contract that is good for them and an efficiency, i.e. cost savings to us.”

“This is not about people disagreeing. It’s about what happens when they do. They are marginalized, trivialized, dismissed in public, in the press and at cocktail parties,” continued Kochanasz, interjecting a claim that a school board member was heard referring to a parent who spoke at a previous board meeting as a “buffoon” at The American Hotel.

Of this incident, Wilcoxen said he didn’t know about the comment made but said, “We are a small community and haven’t board members been called worse in public?”

Dr. Gratto and school board member Mary Ann Miller believed the new shirts would have little effect on the progression of the negotiations.

“Picketing or attacking people or wearing t-shirts isn’t going to change the fact that both parties will have to reach an agreement they think is fair,” noted Dr. Gratto. He said the board made the last proposal at the last negotiation session on December 3.

Miller added, “I don’t think the protesting methods are doing a lot to sell their positions. I think the financial state of the economy in this country is what people are focusing on.”

At Monday’s meeting, community member and parent Brigid Collins said she believed as a superintendent of the district Dr. Gratto should represent the board and the teachers, and try to mediate a compromise. She said, “The board brought this person in to bring us to a place I am not sure we want to be. I am really hopeful this can stop.”

On another note, TASH’s charge with the Public Employee Relations Board accusing the board of pre-conditioned bargaining is still under review. However, another TASH charge asserting the board is bargaining in bad faith was found to be lacking evidence, noted PERB representative Monty Klein in a letter from December 30. TASH has the opportunity to file an amendment of the charges by January 15.

Sag Harbor Teachers and Administration Back to the Bargaining Table

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Sag Harbor teachers and the local school administration are expected to soon be heading back to the negotiating table following a fact finder’s report whose opinions side largely with the teachers’ union. At issue has been a host of topics ranging from salary increases to insurance coverage to stipends for coaches.

Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH) president Eileen Kochanasz said the teachers expressed their “extreme satisfaction” at a report filed on August 12 by Elliott D. Shriftman, a fact finder assigned after negotiations broke down in June 2008 and a mediator from the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) failed to get the two parties together. PERB then appointed Shriftman to establish facts in the negotiations and offer recommendations.

While the teachers have announced they feel “vindicated” by the recommendations, the school administration has rejected Shriftman’s report, saying in a posting on the district’s website “it does not make recommendations on all issues separating the parties and/or makes recommendations that would impair the effective operations of the school district.”

“He left some pieces out,” said school superintendent Dr. John Gratto. “It’s like not completing a jigsaw puzzle.”

The parties have tentatively set September 2 as the first day back to negotiations.

“The district so wanted this fact finding process,” said Kohanasz in an interview Wednesday. “Seeing how this man looked at us objectively, I hope it opens the administration’s eyes in terms of the world at large.”

Perhaps the most significant of the fact finder’s determinations was a recommended increase in both the term of the new contract, and also the amount. While the school administration had recommended a term of three years for the contract, and TASH had recommended a five year agreement, the fact finder recommended four years.

Noting that the current contract is already a year past its expiration and the parties “have not reached even a tentative understanding on major issues,” Shrifton writes that it makes no sense to recommend a contract for three years, and thus recommends a four year agreement.

He also recommended more than a 14 percent increase in salaries over the term of that contract.

And this is perhaps the greatest sticking point, and where the parties are the furthest apart. The administration proposed an annual increase of 2.5 percent over the term of the agreement, totaling 10 percent in four years. The teachers’ union proposed a 3.9 percent annual increase over the same period, totaling 15.4 percent. The fact finder, taking salaries of comparable teachers into consideration and “in the context of the current and projected economic conditions” recommended an increase of 3.0 percent for the first year, 3.4 percent for the second year, and 3.9 percent for the last two years of the agreement, for a total of 14.2 percent.

“It is less than what we asked for,” said Kochanasz, “but we knew we had room to move.”

TASH had also proposed increases in the various steps or increases in salaries teachers receive with advanced degrees, but Shrifton chose not to make any recommendations here.

Another major issue was how teachers paid for health benefits in retirement. Currently, teachers who were hired after 2000 will contribute 15 percent of their health care benefits when they retire. The administration proposed changing that to all teachers, regardless of their hire date, would pay the 15 percent. TASH had rejected the proposal, and Kochanasz said it was unfair for a teacher to have already anticipated post-retirement expense and suddenly found an additional cost.

“When you walk in the door and have it explained how life will be, and then have the rug pulled out from under you; it’s unfair to have the rules changed on them,” said Kochanasz.

Instead, the fact finder has recommended maintaining the current language of the contract, but adding a paragraph stipulating that teachers hired after fall 2009 will pay 25 percent of their insurance benefit in retirement.

Among the other recommendations by the fact finder were $100 in compensation for teachers chaperoning on overnight field trips (TASH had asked for $145; currently there is none); institute disability insurance for teachers, along with the already-established “sick bank,” providing the district establish reasonable criteria for using the sick bank; binding arbitration for future disputes and offering alternative health insurance plans.

Kochanasz said TASH looks forward to resuming negotiations, but argues representatives from the administration in previous sit-downs have failed to negotiate, and have simply delivered proposals. She also urges the administration come to the table “in a different position.”

Gratto said the report “causes us to re-examine what we think is fair and appropriate,” but disagrees with Kochanasz’s interpretation of the previous negotiations.

“We’ve been willing to negotiate all along,” said Gratto. “We’ve just had a difference of opinion on some issues.”

Teachers Say They’re Seeking Middle Ground

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Nearly 70 teachers, parents, administrators and community members packed a math classroom at Pierson High School last Thursday night to listen to teachers tell their side of what has been happening with teacher contract negotiations. The Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH) gave a presentation to supply some history and contradict the presentation given by the district’s attorney last month.

TASH and the district have been in contract negotiations for several months. Last June, when the current teacher’s contract expired, the two sides declared impasse — which called for a mediator to come in. In August that mediator met with the district, TASH and their attorneys to try to reach consensus on salary, healthcare in retirement and course approval among other issues. The mediation failed. At their last meeting, the two sides agreed to go to fact finding, where a representative from the Public Employee Relations Board (P.E.R.B.) will hear both sides and make a recommendation based on the findings. As of yesterday (Wednesday) school superintendent Dr. John Gratto said he has not yet heard from P.E.R.B. on the scheduling of the fact finder.

Eileen Kochanasz, guidance counselor and president of TASH began on Thursday by explaining that in her 34 years of teaching in the district, she has never been in this position before.

“The superintendent and the board of education believed that a press release issued by the teachers, which is a very common action during difficult negotiations, warranted an immediate exposure of the specific details of the proposals to the public,” she said.

Math teacher Jim Kinnier took the stand to discuss the issues that deal with salary. Kinnier said the district’s presentation talked about increases in salary that are given when a teacher pursues post graduate courses.

“What the district’s presentation didn’t state was that the teachers pay approximately the same amount or more to take those courses,” noted Kinnier who also compared the district’s salaries to those in surrounding districts.

He indicated that in Amagansett, teachers will receive a 3.5 percent increase for 2008-09 and a 3.75 percent increase for 2009-10. East Hampton and Southampton will be getting a 3.5 percent increase for 2008-09 and 2009-10 as well.

Kinnier explained that in February of last year, TASH offered a 4.5 percent increase, which he said was done so the teachers could negotiate down to a figure somewhere in the middle.

Kinnier then explained that on November 6, TASH offered a 3.9 percent increase and in December the district came back with a 2.5 percent increase.

During the presentation, Kinnier also compared teacher’s salaries with surrounding districts. He said, Sag Harbor offers $46,000 for a teacher at the first “step” if they are hired with a bachelor’s degree. According to his data, Sag Harbor pays those teachers lower than Mattituck and East Hampton and higher than Southampton. For teachers with a master’s degree with an additional 30 credits at “step” 15, Sag Harbor pays a bit less than $90,000, falling behind Southampton’s $95,000 and East Hampton, which is just above $95,000. According to Kinnier, Sag Harbor’s salary for that level is higher than Mattituck and Southold.

Social Studies teacher Jim Sloane spoke about health insurance. The district said during their presentation that they want to require all teachers after 2010 to contribute 15 percent to their health insurance in retirement.

Sloane said that teachers in Sag Harbor have paid more toward their health insurance for a longer period of time than the vast majority of Eastern and Suffolk BOCES school districts. The teachers want to maintain the current model, which is that only teachers hired after July 1, 2000 will pay 15 percent toward their health insurance in retirement.

“Currently more than 50 percent of the teachers in the district will contribute to their health insurance in retirement,” Sloane said.

At Monday’s board of education meeting, president Walter Wilcoxen read aloud a statement from the board in response to the TASH presentation.

“We will share TASH’s presentation with our attorney and ask him to compare our presentation and TASH’s presentation for the purpose of clarifying any misunderstandings we may have presented and to highlight any information TASH presented that we believe to be inaccurate,” Wilcoxen said.

He also said that the board takes “a long term view of the financial viability of the district…and the board of education is trying to alter the dynamic burden on taxpayers due to ever increasing health insurance and retirement contributions.”

“We will all have to work together in the future to address the challenges created by the economic tsunami that has befallen us,” Wilcoxen said on Monday.

Wilcoxen acknowledged the teachers and credited them as being a major contributor to the quality of education in Sag Harbor, but added that the students, taxpayers and the board are all “crucial to the current and future success of the district.”

At Monday’s meeting, former Sag Harbor school board president Walter Tice asked school board members if they had given TASH a reason why the board had decided to go public with information related to negotiations.

“We had negotiated to a stalemate,” Wilcoxen responded. “I think the public has a right to know, this was not an attempt to negotiate in public. For me it was a fair position.”

Wilcoxen further argued that there is nothing in law that states that the board of education could not go public. He added that the district’s presentation, “didn’t belittle anyone.”

“Almost every time this [going public] has been done, it has led to bad relations between the parties,” countered Tice. “Now it’s all out there.”

“What I’m suggesting,” added Tice, “is that you take into consideration…getting back into traditional negotiations for the public and for the community of Sag Harbor.”



Teachers to Tell Their Side

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teachers outside the elementary school on Friday january 9, 2009

Temperatures barely went over freezing last Friday, but that did not stop teachers in the Sag Harbor School District from picketing outside the elementary and high schools before classes began that day.
The teachers, many of whom huddled closely together to keep warm, held onto signs that offered messages saying, “Both Sides of the Coin,” and “Get all the Facts,” as well as signs educating passers-by that there would be a public forum to take place tonight, Thursday, January 15 at Pierson/Middle High School. That meeting was rescheduled, due to snow, to Thursday, January 22, at 7:30 p.m.
In response to the board of education’s move to make all matters pertaining to teacher contracts public, the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH) has planned tonight’s presentation to offer an alternative view to the issues that have been said to be stalling the contract negotiations.
TASH has been in contract negotiations with the district since the end of the 2007-2008 school year and is currently working under the last contract agreements, which are from 2004.
For the past few months, TASH and their representatives, board of education members as well as the superintendent and the district’s lawyer have been meeting to try to come to an agreement on salaries, health insurance in retirement and course approval, among other issues.
At their last meeting, both sides agreed to go to fact finding, a stage that requires an outside representative to look at both sides, and make a non-binding decision. Directly after the decision to proceed to the fact finding stage was made, the district held a public meeting to present a variety of the outstanding issues pertaining to teacher contracts.
Tonight, however, at 7 p.m. the teachers will offer the public their side of the negotiation story.
“Our plan is to give a historical perspective on how some of the things in our contract have been developed over time in negotiations,” TASH president and high school guidance counselor Eileen Kochanasz said on Tuesday.
She noted that her biggest problem with the presentation the district gave to the public is that they did not offer any background about what the teachers are asking for and only showed the views from one side.
“The board of education left out the history,” she said. “Without that, this would be difficult to understand.”
At tonight’s meeting, Kochanasz explained that the teachers will be providing information on salary history, academic support and duty assignments as well as history on health insurance. Although Kochanasz did not attend the meeting the district held, she said she has looked over the information they provided to the public that night and has prepared some counter arguments.
Kochanasz also said she has some comparative data from districts across Long Island, “and these were settled in October and November,” she added, when the economy began to turn.
She also said that during their presentation, the district talked about advanced vacation pay.
“I have a problem with it being referred to as that,” Kochanasz said. “Vacation pay doesn’t exist for starters.”
Another problem Kochanasz says she has with the district’s arguments is about course approval. The district is asking that all teachers get final approval from the superintendent for courses they take to further their knowledge. Kochanasz suggests that teachers will most likely not be approved for courses unrelated to their current field of study, and that, she said, can be problematic.
“If a social studies teacher wanted to take a class on W.W.I,” Kochanasz explains, “that would be allowed. But if that teacher had a student with Asperger’s syndrome, a course on that would be prohibited.”
Superintendent Dr. John Gratto said in defense that the district decided to “inform, not influence.”
Further Gratto said, “I’m hopeful people treat issues as issues, and not malign the teachers or the board. They are all legitimate issues and I’m hopeful people will remain civil.”

Negotiations Over Teachers Gets Tough

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Last week the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH) members and their lawyer met with the Sag Harbor UFSD Board of Education and superintendent Dr. John Gratto at what was meant to be a negotiation session, but instead, became yet another failure in the attempt to come to agreement about teacher contracts.
After Wednesday’s talks, TASH president Eileen Kochanasz said that the meeting “went nowhere” and the district’s salary proposal “still lags behind the rate of inflation, even as the rate has slowed during the economic crisis.”
She announced that both parties agreed to go to the next step, which is hiring a fact finder.
“This is the process after mediating,” Kochanasz explained, “their [the district’s] representative will contact the Public Employment Relations Board [PERB] to notify them that we can’t go forward. Their rep and ours will consider jointly requesting a fact finder.”
A fact finder is someone who looks at both sides of the issue and makes non-binding suggestions to further the talks between the two sides.
“We are not surprised,” board of education president Walter Wilcoxen said on Friday, “We believe the real sticking points are the salary increase.”
In response to a press release sent out by TASH last week, Gratto called for a press conference in his office on Monday. At that gathering, Gratto and Wilcoxen jointly explained that salary has been the main issue stalling the new agreement and said the board has called for a special meeting on Thursday to present the district’s information to members of the public.
“I have to tell you I find it curious,” Kochanasz said on Tuesday in response to Thursday’s meeting, “why am I learning this in an email? I’m not sure what our strategy will be, but this time of year people have plans. This quick and sudden meeting leaves people with their heads spinning, it’s a sudden calling of a significant meeting… It’s not a tactic that is used and it’s not popular. I’m stunned,” she said.
At the press conference, Gratto outlined five major areas where the two sides are disagreeing — terms of contract, salary increase, workday issues, health insurance and retirement and coursework approval.
At present, teachers are on a three-year contract term, which the board and superintendent outlined during Monday’s press conference. But according to Kochanasz, the board asked first for a five-year term, then the two sides agreed on a four-year term and now the board is asking for a three-year term — again.
“That is curious,” Kochanasz said.
As for the salary disagreements, Gratto explained that the board and their representatives see the numbers differently than do TASH members. Gratto explained that the 2.5 percent increase in salaries proposed for the agreement excludes the cost of moving on salary step (the level at which a teacher’s pay is determined), which would cost the district an additional 2.77 percent in 2008-2009 school year, 2.57 percent for 2009-2010 and 2.31 percent in 2010-2011. For example, for 2008-2009 Gratto said the increase, when the two figures are added, would be 5.27 percent for the 2008-2009 school year.
“We see it as total new money [coming from] the taxpayers,” Wilcoxen said of the total increase, “TASH generally doesn’t see it that way.”
“There is an automatic increase every year, after that it is a raise – that’s what you are negotiating,” Kochanasz said. “They are counting that increase as part of the raise, and they are spinning it that way.”
Gratto explained that the board would like to keep the salary step increase “as is” as was worked out in the previous contract.
Concerning retirement and Social Security, Gratto explained that in Sag Harbor, teachers hired prior to July 1, 2000 do not contribute toward their health insurance in retirement but those hired after that date contribute 15 percent. The board is now asking for all teachers to contribute 15 percent.
Kochanasz said that the teachers in Sag Harbor were the first in Suffolk and Nassau counties to agree to contribute 10 percent to their health insurance in 1996, then in 2000 the teachers signed a new contract agreeing to the tiered system for anyone hired after 2000.
“This way the new teachers would know that when they took the job so we weren’t pulling the rug out from underneath them,” Kochanasz said and added that as of now, more than half of the teachers are paying 15 percent towards their health insurance in retirement indicating half the teachers were hired after July 1, 2000.
Gratto said that teachers in the surrounding districts, like East Hampton and Southampton, contribute upwards of 35 percent to their health insurance in retirement for family coverage. Gratto said in order to phase in this change, teachers hired before 2000 would have until July 1, 2010 to retire and still get 100 percent of their health insurance in retirement paid for.
During the press conference, Gratto explained that teachers can move ahead in their “salary steps” by taking additional courses, advancing them to higher salaries. Gratto said that the board is suggesting that teachers take courses related to their teaching field.
“The concept is you are getting a better teacher,” Gratto said and added those courses should be closely related to the teacher’s field of study.
Kochanasz said it is “changing times in education,” and that the school may be adding a new program or other offering that a teacher may not be qualified in, but may be able to implement into their curriculum.
“Dr. Gratto wants complete control to say whether or not you take a course,” Kochanasz said and added, “This has never been an issue in prior negotiations.”
When asked what would be the earliest date of the next meeting between TASH the board and their fact finder, Gratto said most likely February.
The Special Board Meeting will be held in the Pierson High School Library Thursday, December 18, at 6 p.m.

Mitten Line

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Some parents look forward to the holiday season, scrambling to buy gifts for friends and family, buying decorations and spending money on yards of wrapping paper. For them, this is a fantastic time of the year. But for others, holiday shopping is a dreaded event. This year, especially, it has become difficult for those with limited funds to make Christmas special for their kids.

For those with children in Sag Harbor Elementary School who cannot afford to purchase gifts this year, the school provides some relief through their “mitten line” — a popular holiday giving program that allows students to choose a paper mitten off a corkboard in the school which describes a child and the gifts they desire.

The mitten line started as a previous program called “The Giving Tree” — named after a popular children’s book by Shel Silverstein. Guidance counselor Eileen Kochanasz, who now works at Pierson High School, began the program through the elementary school guidance office nearly 20 years ago. Current elementary school counselor Michelle Grant renamed the program “The Mitten Line” after a short story that she wrote. In her rhyming story, Grant outlines how a child finds a mitten with the wishes of another child written on it. The child then feels proud on Christmas Day, having helped make Christmas better for someone else.

“We receive a wish list from the parents,” said Grant, explaining how the mitten line process works. Parents are found using school registration documentation or other information that indicates a family may be in need of financial assistance, especially at this time of year.

“Some of the parents contact me,” Grant said. “I am the only one who knows who is getting the gifts.”

“We ask the kids to bring in the gifts unwrapped so that we can give them to the parents unwrapped,” she said and added. “We like the parents to feel involved, and they prefer to wrap the gifts themselves and if they need it — we give them the wrapping paper.”

Grant said this year there were 275 mittens that were hung in the hallway at the school, representing a total of 18 families in the district who will receive the gifts. This year, according to Grant, there are 30 kids among the families and they will each receive eight presents.

Grant also said that each child gets certain staple items — like new pajamas, a hat, gloves or scarf, a book, and an arts and crafts item.

“Sometimes there are bigger ticket items like a new bike,” Grant said, “And we can get those from donations by the Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) and Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH).

“Its not easy for the parents,” she said, “It’s really hard to get the parents to ask for help and it can take time. Sometimes it’s situational or a recent divorce, a single parent or a medical issue.” 

Grant collects all the gifts in her office, and then said that she privately meets with the parents at their work, home, or street corner to hand them the gifts.

Sag Harbor Teacher Contracts – Still Waiting to Hear

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President of the Sag Harbor Board of Education, Walter Wilcoxen has been on vacation and missed the last school board meeting where nearly 50 teachers showed up in black shirts and buttons asking for new teacher contracts. In his place sat Theresa Samot who faced the upset teachers with fellow board members and superintendent, Dr. John Gratto.
The teachers contracts expired in June, and Gratto said on Tuesday that school attorney Tom Volz has been collecting data on surrounding districts and is expected to make a presentation to the superintendent and the school board on October 23.
The teacher contracts developed in 2004 expired on June 30. The teachers and school board were not able to come to an agreement on certain issues pertaining to the contracts so the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH) declared impasse in June, which required that a mediator come in to help negotiate.
TASH President Eileen Kochanasz, said that her group is not invited to the October 23 meeting and she believes it may be a while after that meeting before TASH can meet with the board and superintendent to go over the contracts.
“I don’t know what to anticipate,” said Kochanasz who explained that after the school board met with Gratto and Volz last time, she was left in the dark about the next meeting date.
“I hope we will hear something at the end of this October 23 meeting,” Kochanasz said, “but I can’t be sure.”
Kochanasz said the data being collected by Volz has to do with salaries in other nearby districts, but Wilcoxen said the district is also looking at other issues involved, like post retirement data, which is also a concern.
“Tom Volz is compiling a review of our bargaining position – but it’s more than that,” Wilcoxen said.
Business Manager Len Bernard explained that an actuarial study is being performed by Milliman Inc., a global consulting and actuarial firm, regarding post retirement issues including health benefits, which he expected to have received on Tuesday. This is a new requirement that will determine post retirement issues for the next 20 to 25 years.
“It would be irresponsible to go ahead now, for the community,” Wilcoxen said on Friday, “We are asking ourselves, are we going to have this great school 10 years from now? Well that all depends on what we do now.”
“We want to make a recommendation about everything that is known so we can do our due-diligence,” Wilcoxen said, “We would back ourselves into a corner if we didn’t.”
Wilcoxen also added that he believes the old contract is not a bad contract, and the board is trying to do the best thing for the district.
“Hopefully we will be signing in the next few weeks,” Wilcoxen said, “We’re moving forward not backward, so that is positive.”