Public comments at Herricks school board meeting focus on teachers’ contract

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Public comments at Herricks school board meeting focus on teachers’ contract
Herricks schools Superintendent Fino Celano speaks with a parent after the April 16 board meeting. (Photo by Samuel Glasser)

By Samuel Glasser

The Herricks Board of Education meeting had hardly begun Tuesday night when the stalled negotiations with the Herricks Teachers’ Association became the first issue raised during the public comment session.

Clifford Katz, a parent from Albertson, said he had two questions: One for the board – “why are the contract negotiations so acrimonious?” And for the HTA – “why did the teachers union direct the cancellation of extra help sessions? I don’t understand why that action should be condoned.”

Superintendent Fino Celano, answering for the board, said: “There are certain actions the HTA is taking that’s causing consternation in the community. We made clear that if there are responsibilities they have to continue or it’s an illegal job action.”

Nidya Degliomini, president of the teachers union, pushed back on Celano’s statement in an interview after the meeting. The union, she said, made clear to the teachers that they “have to abide by the terms of the expired contract. If you are assigned extra help, you do it. My teachers will do anything to help a kid.”

She also spoke with Mr. and Mrs. Katz after the meeting and said she would find out what happened at the class.

The teachers’ contract expired at the end of June 2018 and negotiations have been underway for about a year. This is the first time in decades that the contract had not been settled by the opening of the school year. Under state law the teachers continue to work under the provisions of the expired contract except for scheduled salary increases.

The board and union are entering a process called fact-finding. The state Public Employment Relations Board appoints a neutral party as fact-finder who hears the positions of both parties and provides assistance towards a settlement.

Another parent at the meeting complained about flyers that were displayed on cars in the school parking lots that she said “sent a bad message to students and the community.”

Degliomini said the flyers were distributed only to HTA members and were only displayed on their cars. They read: “Your Herricks Faculty: Disrespected Devalued Demoralized. What’s with the Herricks B.O.E.? Fair Contract Now!”

“The crisis team decided that some kind of action [was needed] because we feel disrespected, devalued and demoralized,” she said. It has been 10 months [since the contract expired], and “members felt that the message needs to go out,” she added.

“I didn’t want to do this,” she said, but “morale has plummeted. This has never happened in this district. Why are we being treated this way? This is one of the top [school] districts in the nation,” Degliomini said.

The board announced at the March 28 meeting that of the 10 Herricks students who are National Merit Scholarship finalists, two are winners. A formal announcement releasing their names will be made in May.

In other business, Celano thanked Madeline Svitak for her service as co-president of the Herricks District Council of PTAs. She is finishing a two-year term in the office and will be succeeded by Rosemarie Polo. Michelle Haller will continue to serve as the other co-president.

The council is the umbrella organization for all of the PTA units in the district.

A budget hearing will be held at the May 9 meeting. The budget vote is May 21.

 

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