Mineola ed board OKs new teachers contract

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Mineola ed board OKs new teachers contract
Mineola school district Superintendent Michael Nagler speaks at an April 20, 2017 school board meeting. (Photo by Rebecca Anzel)

The Mineola school board approved a new contract with the district’s teachers union on Thursday, ending two years of sometimes tense negotiations.

The deal with the Mineola Teachers Association covers the next three school years and applies retroactively to the last two, during which the union’s old contract was expired, district Superintendent Michael Nagler said.

It includes incremental raises in the next four years offset by increasing contributions by teachers to their health insurance plans, Nagler said. It also takes away three days teachers could take off due to family illness starting in the 2018-19 year, when the school year will be shortened to 182 days from 184.

“The teachers association is so glad this is resolved and that our full focus is on what we do best — teaching the children,” the union president, Teresa Perrotta Hafner, said after Thursday’s school board meeting.

After several impasses, Nagler and Hafner hammered out an agreement through much of August to have a new contract in place for the start of the school year, Nagler said.

Under the deal, Nagler said, the district’s 300 teachers get no raises for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years on top of any raise earned by moving up a “step,” or rank in experience. But teachers get a $2,000 salary adjustment for the current school year plus a 0.75 percent or 2 percent raise, depending on experience.

Starting in the 2018-19 year, all teachers get a 1 percent raise but will have to pay 1 percent more toward their health insurance costs for a total contribution of 16 percent, Nagler said. Teacher health contributions will rise to 17 percent and then 18 percent respectively in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years, with a 1.1 percent raise each year.

Nagler said the raises and corresponding health insurance hikes is “almost a wash” for teachers, but the district will have to plan its budgets carefully to accommodate it.

“Overall this is a package that we clearly deliver the best system for what we can afford,” Nagler said.

The median teacher’s salary in Mineola is $121,999, according to data published by the Empire Center for Public Policy, a conservative think tank.

The deal also removes the three family illness days that, like teachers’ two annual personal days, did not accumulate over time. Teachers get 15 sick days a year, and any of those that are unused go in a “bank” of sick time, Nagler said.

The time-off policy emerged as a contentious issue in contract talks in recent months. An independent fact finder last December recommended reducing the total number of days off to 12 from 20, an idea the union rejected.

A July report by the assistant superintendent for human resources, Ed Escobar, found that teachers on average took 10.2 days off in the 2016-17 school year.

Other provisions include extra pay for advisers of certain school clubs and changes to staffing for field trips and lunch duties.

Nagler said the two-year negotiation was a particularly long period of “labor unrest.” When the school board accepted the fact-finder’s recommendations in December, Hafner accused it of sending a message “that teachers are not valued.”

But on Thursday she said the agreement is “a new beginning.” She shook hands with the school board members and thanked them after the meeting.

“I don’t think anybody appreciates our teachers as much as this board does, and I don’t think there’s been a greater show of respect for our teachers than from this board,” Christine Napolitano, the school board president, said during the meeting.

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