East Williston school board, teachers union strike labor deal

James Galloway

The East Williston Board of Education has reached an agreement on a collective bargaining contract with the district’s teachers union, board President Mark Kamberg announced Monday, calling the deal fair to both sides.

The agreement, which was posted online Wednesday morning, lasts through June 2018 and will replace the current contract, which expires at the end of the month.

Kamberg said he believes the East Williston Teachers Association also feels the agreement is fair, though the board is not privy to the union’s ratification vote tallies. The union did not respond to an email asking for comment, and association president Meryl Fordin did not respond to a voicemail left at a phone number listed as hers.

“The Memorandum of Agreement meets the Board of Education’s objective to contain wage and benefit costs, while providing the teachers with a salary increase,” Kamberg said in a statement from the entire board. “The Memorandum of Agreement represents a fair agreement for both the EWTA and the East Williston Union Free School District.”

The agreement puts a freeze on step increases for teachers with roughly 15 or fewer years of experience (steps 1 through 15, officially) for the 2015-16 school year, providing those teachers with a flat 1 percent raise. Teachers step 16 and beyond get the step increases in addition to the 1 percent raise. For the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years, all teachers will get their scheduled step increases as well as 0.6 percent and 0.7 percent raises, respectively.

Teacher salaries account for the majority of East Williston’s $50 million-plus budget, and Board of Education Vice President Robert Fallarino said the agreement keeps wage increases “well below what the tax cap has been” and helps the district in its budget planning for the next two years.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” Fallarino said. “The teachers know they’re secure, and we can move forward with programs.”

The agreement also makes significant alterations to  the insurance opt-out incentives, which pays lump sums to teachers who waive health insurance coverage through the district.

Until the 2017-18 school year, East Williston will continue to pay teachers who opt out half the premium the district would have otherwise paid. But starting in 2017-18, the incentive changes to a flat rate: $3,595 for teachers who waive individual coverage and $8,000 to teachers who waive family coverage.

“Controlling the opt-out [incentive] is a major change,” Kamberg said. “We wanted to control expense drivers and save money for the future, and the opt-out savings certainly does do that.”

Beginning in July, teachers will also begin contributing an additional 1 percent to their health insurance premiums, deceasing the district’s responsibility from 80 percent to 79 percent.

Prior to 2008, the district paid 90 percent of health-care premiums.

Extra-curricular and coaching stipends will remain flat for the entirety of the contract, according to the agreement.

Negotiations on the new agreement began in September, Kamberg said.

“The challenge is to try to control [teachers’ payroll] within a tax cap environment so we are able to offer the great academic initiatives that we do in the East Williston School District,” he said. “I think that any negotiation is a give and take and at the end of the day you have to be satisfied with the results that accomplished your goals, and that’s exactly what we did.”

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