OCS ratifies teachers' deal after 17 months

By Jay Braman Jr.
The Onteora School District Board of Education unanimously ratified a new four-year teachers’ contract last week, officially ending a 17-month stretch during which the teachers went without one.
The contract, effective July 1, 2008, the date the previous contract ended, was hammered out two months ago in an all-night bargaining session between the entire school board and key administrators who met with representatives of the Onteora Teachers Association.
The session went on against a backdrop of a teachers’ strike threat; a threat made after union leaders felt the district was not taking the matter seriously.
Once the deal, called a memorandum of agreement, was reached by negotiators the teachers’ union then took several weeks to pitch the plan to its rank and file, who then ratified the agreement.
According to Onteora’s interim Assistant Superintendent for Business Don Gottlieb, the details of deal are more complex than the typical plan.
He described the salary increase as “a declining percentage scale.” Over four years the teachers would get an 11 percent increase.
But the deal is retroactive to July of last year. Furthermore, teachers agreed to only take a salary increase starting this past February instead of back to last July. That increase stands at 1.75 percent.
The 2009/2010 school year will average an increase of 3.375 percent, 2010/2011 will have a three-percent increase and a 2.75 increase by year four.
Teachers have also agreed to double their contribution to health benefits from five percent to 10 percent.
Currently, health care premiums are $7,190.28 a year for individual coverage and $16,034.16 for family coverage. Gottlieb said with a 10 percent teacher contribution, “you can see that would translate on a family plan to over $800 giveback on the part of the teachers.”