Fallsburg district, teachers reach pact
By Eli Ruiz
FALLSBURG March 15, 2013 A new contract between the Fallsburg Teachers Association (FTA) and the school district was approved at last Wednesday’s board meeting, bringing to a conclusion the stalemate that saw the district miss a state deadline regarding the approval of a new teacher evaluation plan.
The four-year pact though raising health insurance contributions calls for an immediate 1.5 percent salary increase for the district’s teachers, and allows for additional 1.2 percent increases in each of the contract’s last three years.
The previous failed negotiations between the district and teacher’s union was blamed for the Fallsburg district joining three others statewide in missing the January 17 deadline to submit Annual Professional Performance Reviews (APPR) for its teachers.
Failing to submit the APPR by the mid-January deadline caused the State Education Department (SED) to withhold any aid increases for the 2012-2013 school year. The losses in state aid have been estimated to be anywhere from about $110,000, all the way up to $500,000.
Although teachers will see their health insurance contributions rise to nine percent up from 8.5 percent on May 1, then go up to 10 percent on July 1; to 11 percent July 1, 2014, and then to 12.5 percent July 1, 2015, FTA president Don Thomas called the new pact, “a fair agreement.”
Another issue resolved between the two parties was the small matter of who should have the responsibility to hear final-stage appeals in cases where a teacher may be rated to be “developing,” or the lowest of the four evaluation ratings: “ineffective.”
The district had originally felt that Superintendent Dr. Ivan Katz should be tasked with hearing the last phase of a three-stage appeals process for troubled teachers. The FTA favored bringing in an independent arbitrator to handle the process.
In settling the matter, Katz would hear the final appeal, though not in matters where a tenured teacher may have received two ratings of ineffective, and/or are in the process of being disciplined for pedagogical incompetence or incompetence in the work or function of a teacher.
Dr. Katz said to the Democrat, “I’m very happy that the teacher’s union [FTA] and the district were able to come to terms at length for a successful agreement that will have positive ramifications on this district and its students for years to come.”
Thomas said, “I’m just glad we were able to come to an agreement. It was certainly fair and hopefully we can just move on from here.”
In other news the district board voted unanimously to move forward with an $11 million capital building project. The resolution penned by Katz during the discussion portion of the meeting read as follows: Be it resolved upon recommendation of the Superintendent of Schools, the Board of Education will move forward with a capital project referendum not to exceed $11 million and to be of no increase to the tax levy to take place during the annual budget vote, and board election to take place on May 21, 2013.”
Senior Project Manager, Craig Lamoreaux, with architectural firm Tetra-Tech out of Ithaca, affirmed, “I’d like to get this project ready and out to contractors for bid by February, 2014.”