Teachers’ contract dominates NHP-GCP Board of Education meeting

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New Hyde Park-Garden City Park school district teachers show their frustration at the lack of a contract. (Photo by Samuel Glasser)

By Samuel Glasser

The NHP-GCP Teachers’ Association voiced their unhappiness with contracts talks with the district at the Board of Education’s monthly meeting on Monday.

Association members filled a good number of the seats in the auditorium at the New Hyde Park Road School with about 50 holding signs that said “Working Without A Contract! NHP-GCP Teachers.”

The signs were mostly put down when the meeting started, and the first order of business was a performance by two orchestras of 5th and 6th graders from the district’s four elementary schools in observance of Music in Our Schools Month.

The teacher’s previous contract expired at the end of June 2018.

Board President Jennifer Kerrane briefly reviewed the status of the labor negotiations. She said the teachers and the board have been meeting since October 2017.

“We made a fair offer. The district has on multiple occasions increased the wage offer,” she said. “We want an amicable negotiation and to move forward,” Kerrane said, noting that under state law the terms of the expired contract remain in force.

Afterwards, board member David DelSanto mentioned that his daughter was an alumna of the Road School and is now a teacher herself, inspired years ago by her own teachers. While he was speaking a teacher in the audience flashed the Without A Contract sign.

DelSanto said, “I see those signs. We have limitations. Work with us. I get it.” As a federal employee he worked for a month and a half without pay during the recent government shutdown, he said.

When it was time for community comments, the teachers’ union president, Ralph Ratto, gave the teachers’ point of view. “The contract expired in June 2018. Morale is low. The board takes a long time to respond [to union proposals]. We are at an impasse and we should not be.”

Of the teachers, he said, “every single one” of us buys supplies with their own money. “Every single one” stays after school for students who need extra help. “Every single one” works at home on weekends. “We advocate for the community going to Albany to press for more state aid.”

In response to Kerrane’s statement early in the meeting that most teachers were getting their salary step increases under the old contract, Ratto said 45 percent of the teachers fall into categories under the contract that severely limit any pay increases.

He went on to say that  “34 percent of teachers don’t move up a step. Their last raise was a straight 1 percent.” 

Ratto pointed out that in the last contract the teachers incurred more costs to help the district better budget its payouts for health insurance.

Other parents spoke up for the teachers, with one admonishing the board to negotiate “in good faith.”

Board member James Reddan pushed back: “We are negotiating in good faith,” he insisted. “We are so close. There are exceptional teachers in this district. They do a splendid job.”

In other business, the board resolved to post its budget newsletter on the district website and suspend the printed version as a way of defraying the additional cost of printing other, mandated, materials in Spanish as well as English.

Printing the required notices in two languages brings the cost to approximately $9,700 from around $3,800 for a single-language version. The newsletter, called News Brief, in the past was mailed to all residences, but it is not required to be issued in printed form.

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