OCS teacher picket for new contract

By Jay Braman Jr.
After two years of negotiations there is still no new contract between the Onteora School District and the teachers that work there, prompting an estimated 175 staffers to form a picket line outside a school during the September board meeting.
Corey Cavallaro, president of the Onteora Teachers Association, said Monday the picket was an attempt to convince the board of education to pay more attention to the issue.
Teachers had a five-year contract that expired in June 2008. Although negotiations for a new contract began in the fall of 2007, nothing was accomplished. But District Superintendent Dr. Leslie Ford said Monday that the parameters of the contract that ended last year have been extended while both sides continue to work out a new one.
While both sides agree that there is movement in the right direction, Cavallaro said teachers want things to move along much faster. It is progress, he said, that both sides agreed to bring a mediator into the process just over a year ago, but he notes that since then there have only been two meetings to work on contract terms.
Ford said Monday that the mediation process is in a fact-finding phase. Neither she nor Cavallaro would discuss details of the negotiation, but Ford said that salaries and health benefits are “the big issues.”
As for the recent picket, Cavallaro said it was staged because the district’s negotiating team, led by Dr. Ford, has informed the teachers’ negotiators that they act on the will of the school board. Since things are moving slowly, he said, the teachers decided to confront the school board directly in hopes that they will now instruct the district’s negotiators to take the matter seriously and handle things in a timely fashion.
The picket came after Cavallaro made several public appeals to the school board last spring and over the summer. Appeals that, he says, never received a response.
As for what the teachers will do should things not go faster, Cavallaro said, “we have not made any ultimatums to district.”
About 10 years ago there was a disagreement over contract terms in the Onteora School District. At the time the teachers staged an action in which they all collected their personal belongings and removed them from school in a very public fashion.
Then District Superintendent Dr. Hal Rowe viewed the action as a clear threat of a strike.