Teachers and district back at negotiating table

At the last Board of Education meeting, discord between the teachers and administration over contract negotiations boiled over as representatives from the union accused the School Board and administration of putting saving money ahead of education. The speakers, along with several dozen teachers who attended, walked out before district officials or board trustees could respond.

It seemed that relations between the two parties were at their worst point in the two-plus years of contract negotiations. But since that meeting, the two parties have managed to begin communicating once again.

Asked to comment for this follow-up, Saugerties Teacher’s Association President Patrick Reynolds would say only, “I have learned recently that the district would like negotiation talks to resume again, so I’m going to hold off on any more comments at this time.”

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Board President George Heidcamp said, “The parties have received a fact-finding recommendation and I am hopeful that this recommendation can help the parties reach a resolution to the contract.”

The fact-finder report in question refers to a suggested compromise by impartial third party, calling for a new contract for the period of 2010-2015 that features a three percent salary increase in 2012 and a one percent increase each year following through January 2015, for a six percent net increase, as well as three annual step increment increases beginning January 2013. The report also recommends increases in employee health insurance contributions of two percent in 2014 and three percent in 2015.

Superintendent Seth Turner has, in the past, cited two issues that prevent the administration from accepting the report’s suggestions: “What is the fiscal picture long-term from this recommendation? Where would the money come from in the next school year? Because it was not budgeted,” he said.

Asked if he thought the tension between the board and the STA might negatively impact students and their families, Heidcamp replied, “I am hopeful that the behavior exhibited at the board meeting by a select few does not impact students and their families.”

He added, “The board has respect for the faculty and values their contribution to the education of the students.”

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