Comsewogue Superintendent Joseph Rella praised the teachers union for working to come to a fair agreement with the district. Photo by Monica Gleberman
January 09, 2013 | 05:36 PMAfter 11 months of negotiations, the Comsewogue Board of Education approved a three-year Memorandum of Agreement between the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association and the school district.
The contract, which was approved at the school board's Monday night meeting, is retroactive to July 1, 2012, when the previous contract expired, and runs through June 30, 2015.
Comsewogue Assistant Superintendent for Business Susan Casali said in an email the contract will save the district $275,000 in its second and third years, as compared to the costs if the district and the union had not reached an agreement.
The Triborough Amendment of the state Public Employees Fair Employment Act dictates that once the contract expires and until a new agreement is reached, the teachers and the district operate under the terms of the final year of the union's previous contract.
Casali said the new contract "puts the district in a much stronger position for the future."
PJSTA President Beth Dimino said in a phone interview Tuesday morning that the union membership unanimously approved the new agreement. "So that tells you how my membership felt about the deal," she said. "The important word is that it's an agreement. What we all did is try to put aside our differences and our desires in order to do what was best for the community, including the teachers, the students and the taxpayers."
According to the contract, the teachers will not receive a step or salary increase during the 2012-13 school year. In September 2013, teachers will receive a 1.5 percent salary increase, followed by a step increase in February 2014. For the final year of the agreement, teachers will receive a 1.5 percent salary increase in September 2014 and a step increase in February 2015.
The contract also includes a clause regarding job security. For the duration of the contract, the document says, no teacher hired as of Sept. 4, 2012, may be terminated from that position for budgetary reasons.
"Teachers took less for [job] security — that's fair," Dimino said.
The union president also said Comsewogue teachers have consistently received average salaries and "more than ever it was important for us to stay there because the community can't afford it."
According to the MOA, teachers will also pay more for their health care.
Employees under the Cigna plan, a new option in the district, will immediately begin to contribute a biweekly sum — determined by the number of family members covered under the insurance — and beginning in January 2014, an additional 10 percent of any increase to the premium. In February 2014, that percent contribution will jump to 12.5 percent, and to 15 percent beginning in February 2015.
Retroactive to September 2012, those in the New York State Health Insurance Program or any other plan will contribute 10 percent of their premiums; 12.5 percent starting in February 2014; and 15 percent beginning in February 2015.
Superintendent Joseph Rella said the district and the union worked hard to reach a fair agreement and "the PJSTA has been a real partner here. ... They made a real effort to help the district and be fair to their members." The superintendent added he was pleased with the result of "a very honest and upfront negotiation."