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Latest News - September 2013

September 20, 2013
Bedford School Board, Union Approve Deal with Overhaul for New Hires
Source: Chappaqua Mountkisco Patch
Tom Auchterlonie

The Bedford Central School District's Board of Education unanimously approved a new 3-year contract with its teachers' union at its Wednesday meeting, which is a deal that includes a major overhaul of the compensation structure for new faculty.

The union, called the Bedford Teachers Association (BTA), ratified the deal on Sept. 12. The agreement is retroactive to July 1 and expires on June 30, 2016. It replaces a 4-year deal that expired on June 30.

The new deal creates two different compensation structures: one for those hired before July 1 and another for those hired after.

Older hires, who constitute the vast majority of the current BTA staff, will be no increase in the overall salary schedule for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years, with a $750 increase in the schedule's top step for 2015-16. Older hires will continue to receive increases in their step compensation, although the raises will be smaller in terms of percentage.

Under the deal, they will get a step amount that is halfway between the previous school year's number and that of the current year from Sept. 1, 2013 to Jan 31, 2014, with a rise to the school year's regular step in February 2014. This means that teachers will, for the year, just get paid the equivalent of three-quarters of a step. During the school year, a recurrent $750 payment will be given to teachers who are at the top step for the previous year.

For the second school year, teachers will be paid at half-way amount from the 2013-14 step what regular step amount for 2014-15 from Sept. 1, 2014 to Jan. 31, 2015. Starting on February 1, 2014, they will be paid at the full step amount. Like the first school year, the step increase of the second one means that teachers will get an payment increase that equals three-quarters of a step. A $750 recurring payment will be given to teachers at the top step for the previous school year, while a new step will also be created. 

For the third year, the older hires will get full step levels beginning on Sept. 1, which will mean their compensation increase will be more than during the first two years. A recurring payment of $1,750 will be given to teachers of the top 2014-15 step, while a $1,000 amount will be given to teachers on lower steps in the previous school year.

The biggest change for new hires is that the steps approach is being scrapped. Under the new deal, they will get designated salaries, although they will get the same benefits and evaluations as their colleagues with more longevity. The deal will give the teachers 1.75-percent salary increases each year, an amount that results in a slower upward trajectory for compensation, the district explained in a statement. In contrast, the traditional step increases are in a 4-percent to 7-percent range. 

New teachers will also enjoy a higher starting probationary salary of $69,500 or $64,000 if they have leave-replacement status. Teachers who receive tenure will get $4,000 salary increases and the entry salary amount will increase by 1 percent annually beginning in Sept 1, 2016. 

The compensation structure also incentivizes improving performance for more raises. Post-July 1 teachers who get tenure can receive a 1-percent increase the following year and then every four years, although the deal requires that it is "conditioned upon the employee’s appropriate progress in performance, professional development, and demonstration of professional reflection." The newer teachers can also get $1,500 salary increases they proposed clusters of graduate course work at go up to 15 credits, which are subject the district's approval.

“A new compensation model has been developed for newly hired teachers," said Superintendent Jere Hochman, who revealed the changes on Wednesday. He added that the "key word is model, as it is one that can be built upon and shaped over time, possibly as educational demands, financial conditions and expectations change.”

The salary increase provision was first reported on earlier this week by The Journal News, which described the 1.75-percent raises as "perpetual" because could continue beyond the life of the deal. Although Hochman confirmed that this is technically true, the item can be changed by any successor contract and would also mean having the district pay less in that scenario compared to what older hires would receive. Under a state requirement called the Triborough Amendment, the step structures of expired contracts must remain in place until new deals are reached, which would apply to the older teachers.

Other provisions in the new deal include creating two joint committees for BTA membership and district officials to explore changing the length of school days at all levels, including teachers' work day and work load, along with stipend increases for nurses in the district for than 15 years, mentors and a music coordinator. 

Under what was described as a conservative scenario, the contract would result in a cost increase of $855,348, which is 0.63 percent, to the district over the 3-year period versus what would be paid out if the Triborough Amendment was used in absence of a deal. Costs would go down by $42,756 for 2013-14 but have respective increases of $12,453 for 2014-15 and $885,651 for 2015-16, which is when much of the hike will happen. Including a projected benefits increase of $524,000 means that the district's total employment costs would rise by $1,379,348, which is 1.01 percent. 

There is a big caveat in that estimate, however. The scenario outlined assumes that the 2012-13 staff stays for all three years and with no new teachers hired under the new compensation formula. There are already a small number of newer teachers in the district, it was confirmed at the meeting, and teachers do retire.

The process essentially started about 10 months ago on an informal basis when a meeting was held with school board members, administration and BTA leaders, Hochman explained. The meeting included a review of where the school district is and the financial landscape, which was meant to allow both sides to have the same information. The meeting was then followed by talk, which were not formal, that included having board members and BTA leadership “for the opportunity to express interests.” This approach, Hochman explained, allowed for both sides to understand each other's perspectives, rather than for presenting their positions.

The interests approach got praise from BTA President Adam Yuro in a statement that he made following the board's approval of the deal

Yuro also praised the new compensation structure.

“We're proud that we were able to collaborate over this one.”

School board members were unanimous in their praise for the deal.

Michael Solomon said that it “helps us turn the corner." Jennifer Gerken felt that the deal reflects the work between the union and the district's administration.




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