Weekly Feature

2015-09-23 / Front Page

District, teachers reach contract agreement

Slight raise, health care concessions part of deal
by STEVEN JAGORD Editor

The Clarence Central School District and Clarence Teachers Association have reached a new three-year contract deal, which received approval from the Board of Education during its Monday night meeting.

(See editorial on page four)

Under the terms of the agreement, teachers on the top step of the salary schedule will receive raises of $1,500 in each of the three years. Teachers on the salary schedule will receive $175 in addition to their step increment for the first two years of the contract and $180 in addition to their step increment in the third year of the contract.

Increment step increases are mandated by the state, and the total raises represent less than 1 percent more than that during the life of the contract.

Teachers will pay an additional 1 percent toward health insurance premiums in the second year of the contract and another 1 percent toward those premiums in the third year, resulting in a total of 12 percent toward health insurance premiums. Teachers also agreed to a number of increased co-payments for medical items such as emergency room visits, regular [care], urgent care, specialty office visits, ambulance service, and inpatient hospitalization that will result in what the district described in a press release announcing the agreement as “significant cost containment in the district’s self-insured health care plan.”

“The district is grateful to the CTA for working in good faith on a win-win agreement,” Superintendent Geoffrey Hicks said in the release. “The health care concessions on the part of teachers will help the district in our future budgeting.”

Not everyone on the Board of Education felt the concessions made by the CTA went far enough.

Board member Jason Lahti expressed concerns about the long-term viability of the contract and its impact on the district’s goals of restoring more teaching positions and reducing class sizes.

“[The contract] touches on increases on the high end of the step, but it’s really not balanced on the low end of the scale,” Lahti said. “When I compare it to other districts, our district has lower starting salaries than comparable districts in the area, and this would push the higher end of it up several percentage points above the top end of other districts — 3 percent over Williamsville, 7.5 percent above East Aurora.

“I’m concerned because we have less than 10 percent of our teachers below step 10 on the scale, so over the next 10 years 90 percent of our teachers are going to reach the top step, and the impact of that is going to be — even if we have 10 teachers retire every year — it’s still going to about a $7 million difference over a 10-year period. The percentage rises of the increases, it’s going to be tough to stay at the tax cap and have that type of balance there.”

Board President Mary Ellen Kloss said the district would be unable to address “the systemic issues of what school districts have been dealing with since probably before some of us were born” in the contract and thanked the CTA for making concessions with regard to health insurance contributions.

“Part of the salary structure is out of our hands in terms of the steps, but still some recognition was necessary for the jobs that our teachers do for our students every day,” Kloss said. “I am not interested in doing an overhaul, a slashing of things just so we have everything under control and we’re good for the next 10 years. I think we have to address the things as they, unfortunately, arise, such as where we’re going to be with the tax cap number. And I think it’s unrealistic to say that we would put nothing on the table with this negotiation process because it would have been forever at a stalemate.

“I know everyone wants it to be a good relationship between the district and the people who are in front of our students every single day and to recognize the contributions that they make every single day. With that being said, we also have a responsibility to people that live in this town, and I think that has been historically proven time and time again when we look at our tax rate.

“It’s a collaborative effort. While all the reservations that were listed today are imperative that we address, we’re not going to address all of them at one point.”

The motion to approve the contract was approved 5 to 2, with Lahti and board member Roger Showalter voting against it. The pact is effective from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2018.

In another matter, six teachers from the Hexi School District in China were introduced and will be spending a week in all six district buildings as part of a teacher exchange program that Clarence has participated in since 2001.

Also, Curriculum Coordinator Kristin Overholt presented a three-year review of student performance on Common Core Curriculum English language arts and math testing as well as Regents exams.

The data showed about 50 to 60 percent of students in grades three through eight passed the ELA and math tests. Statewide, only about 30 percent of students are passing. Testing was higher on the Regents exams, with about a 95 percent districtwide passing rate and between 50 and 60 percent “mastery” rate with scores above an 85. Mastery rate at Clarence Middle School is about 90 percent.

Teacher performance data was also shared, with 86 percent of teachers districtwide rated “highly effective” and about 14 percent rated “effective.” More details can be found on the district’s website.

The next Board of Education meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26, in the lecture hall at Clarence Middle School, 10150 Greiner Road.

email: sjagord@beenews.com

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