Signed teachers contract not likely before new school year

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The Herricks board could not say much, but said more progress had been made. (Photo by Tom McCarthy)

At a Board of Education meeting last week, Herricks Superintendent Fino Celano said more progress had been made in teacher contract negotiations, but cautioned that a new contract would not be signed in time for the next school year.

“The only thing we can tell you is that we had a session with our fact finder/mediator in July and we made some progress again and we have another date scheduled,” he said. Celano said the board has another meeting with the Herricks Teachers Association and state-appointed fact-finder in August.

While Celano said the board was hopeful of a resolution to the ongoing contract negotiations, he also said chances of a new contract by the 2019-2020 appeared to be unlikely since an HTA vote would not take place until after the school year has begun.

“As much as we’d like to have a contract in place before the new school year, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen,” Celano said. “Even if we were to reach an agreement, the teachers still have to vote on it. The whole union has to vote on it.”

Celano said the next negotiating session is in August before the school year begins. “We’ll see what happens, we did make some progress,” he said.

The Board and the HTA have been engaged in negotiations for a successor labor contract since January 2018. Since last fall, a mediator from New York state has been a third party for the negotiations. The teachers’ contract expired at the end of June 2018.  This is the first time in decades that the contract has 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 scheduled salary increases do not take place.

In a May 23 statement, the board said, “This past fall, when it became apparent that the parties were unable to reach an agreement after eight negotiation sessions, a Declaration of Impasse was filed with the New York State Public Employment Relations Board. PERB appointed Jay Siegel as mediator. Unfortunately, after five mediation sessions, the parties were not able to reach an agreement, particularly with regard to salary.”

Concerned parents and the HTA attended a June 13 board meeting where Celano noted there had been some movement in contract negotiations and that a fact-finder report would not be released later that month.

“I will not let this district slip in quality of education,” he vowed at that time.

In June, Herricks Teachers Association President Nydia Degliomini could not say much about the negotiations. “We’ve been asked not to speak about it,” she said.

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