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May 30, 2012

 

Dryden faculty press district on contract

About 100 teachers attend board meeting, call for contract based on fact finder’s report

By SCOTT CONROE
Staff Reporter
sconroe@cortlandstandard.net
DRYDEN — The Dryden Faculty Association demanded Tuesday that the Board of Education and the district adhere to a fact finder’s report issued in February, as the two sides were to meet again today over contract negotiations.
Union Co-president Tim Kirkpatrick spoke during the public comment portion of the board’s meeting, surrounded by about 100 fellow teachers, who applauded as he said the Dryden Central School District should follow recommendations listed by fact finder Michael Whelan in February.
Kirkpatrick said the district had rejected the recommendations. He said the district’s management style reflects a lack of support for teachers, both in the contract situation and in recruiting new principals for the middle and high schools.
The union has formed a crisis committee to plan how to proceed, Kirkpatrick said. New York state does not have binding arbitration for school labor matters.
Board President Chris Gibbons said there was more to the story and added that the district values its teachers and wants an end to the impasse.
The previous contract ended on June 30, 2010.
The two sides declared impasse in November 2010 and conducted mediation sessions in January and February 2011 before the DFA asked for a fact finder in June 2011. Whelan met with both sides in January.
The district seeks teacher salary increases of 1.8 percent for the first year, then 2 percent for the second and third years. The union seeks pay increases of 3.8 percent per year.
Both sets of estimates include “step” increases given to teachers for length of service. Dryden has been paying the step increases from the previous contract for 2010-11 and 2011-12, as required by law.
The two sides also disagree on health insurance co-pay arrangements, among other issues.
Whelan, working for the Public Employment Relations Board, recommended a three-year contract instead of the previous two-year contract. He sided with the union on pay increases, although his proposed increases are not as high as the union’s proposal.
Whelan agreed with the union that the school district should use part of its operating surplus, projected by the union to be about $2.9 million at the end of this school year, to pay for raises.
He said that while the district faces financial problems due to state aid cuts and a state tax levy cap enacted for 2012-13, Dryden has the ability to pay more than the raise it has offered. He said district teacher salaries lag behind average salaries in comparable school districts in Broome, Tompkins and Tioga counties.
He recommended pay increases of 2.6 percent the first and second years, and 3.2 percent the third year. These include step increases.
Whelan recommended the district’s choice of health insurance plan.
Kirkpatrick said he was shocked the district rejected the fact finder’s recommendations. He said teachers are concerned about student behavior and a lack of discipline, and about a lack of input into the hiring of new administrators.
The board has given veto power to Superintendent of Schools Sandy Sherwood and her administrative team over candidates favored by community and teacher groups who interview them. A few weeks ago she vetoed a middle school principal candidate favored by the teacher/public groups.
Gibbons said the board values teachers beyond just a salary. He said the district could lay off more teachers to make up for the pay increase, but that would hurt the district.
Cassavant Elementary School teacher Cindy Roberson told Gibbons to stop talking and at least say the board heard the union. Gibbons answered that this was a board meeting, not a union meeting.
Cassavant reading teacher Cindy Waterman said staff morale is low and teachers feel unsupported.

 

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