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Oct 2, 2012 4:33 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Springs School District And Teachers Reach New Contract

Oct 2, 2012 6:05 PM

The Springs School Board and the district’s teachers’ union have agreed to the general terms of a new contract, breaking a two-year stalemate between the two sides.

Teachers’ salaries will increase 3.75 percent over the 5-year length of the contract expiring on June 30, 2015, with teachers forgoing salary increases for two years and deferring step increases for three years, according to a joint statement issued by the district and its union, the Springs Teachers Association, on Monday.

The union’s previous pact expired in 2010, and teachers have been working without a 
contract since then.

Beginning in July 2014, the formula for teachers’ contributions to their health insurance will also change. Instead of paying a percentage of their salary—which is either 2.25 percent for a family plan or 2 percent as a single plan—they would pay 15 percent of the premiums for their coverage. That would result in teachers contributing more overall toward their insurance, union officials and Springs School Superintendent Dominic Mucci said, although they couldn’t immediately quantify how much of a savings it would be for the district.

The two parties also agreed to tougher standards for teacher raises and decreased insurance buyouts—which means the district will pay less to each employee who opts out of the district’s health insurance plan and is entitled to a percentage of that premium. They also agreed to a mutual restructuring of non-teaching time, which more clearly defines time on duty that teachers spend out of the classroom but still teaching in some fashion—for example, providing additional reading instruction or tutoring.

About half of the 2012-13 Springs School budget is comprised of salary and benefits costs. The total operating budget is $24.6 million, and staff costs amount to $12 million, according to Mr. Mucci. The second highest expense after that is $8.7 million in tuition costs to send students to East Hampton High School.

The School Board approved the terms of the agreement, 4-0, during a special meeting on Monday evening, following a series of meetings held between the union and administration since the school year began. Board member Timothy Frazier abstained from the vote because his wife Tracey is a teacher in the district.

Both the School Board and the union hailed the agreement. Upon approval, the audience—which included teachers and staff—along with the School Board burst into applause.

Remarks by teachers touched on a shift in the overall tone of the school’s administration since Mr. Mucci was appointed to replace Superintendent Michael Hartner who retired at the end of last year. Margaret Garsetti, an ESL teacher at the school, said “we’re all a team now.”

“We are all working harder,” she said. “We are all feeling good. And I just can’t thank you enough. Because working for Dominic and Eric are such a great team. The morale is so great. And I feel so happy again, because the standards are where they should be and the quality is being brought back into the education of Springs School.”

Mr. Mucci also commented on the positive tone of negotiations.

“From my perspective coming in, catching the tail end of the process, I think both groups need to be commended for maintaining their professionalism along the way and making certain that kids were not caught in the crossfire,” said Mr. Mucci. “My tip of the hat to my staff for certain and my Board of Education for moving forward with the negotiating.”

Nancy Olson, a co-president of the Springs Teachers Association, said teachers approached negotiations understanding the tough economic climate for schools and taxpayers.

“We’re happy that this has been settled,” Ms. Olson said. “It’s been a long time. We’re thrilled with the way the new administration has worked to move the process along, along with the Board of Education.”

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