Okay Teachers Contract

Budget hearing lasts seconds, to general amazement

    It was announced at Tuesday night’s East Hampton School Board meeting that the district and the East Hampton Teachers Association have reached an agreement, and both sides seemed happy with the results. Details have yet to be disclosed.
    “We think that the representatives of the school district acted in good faith,” said Priscilla Campbell, the teachers association president. “Although it is not a perfect contract, it is a fair one.”
    It is the earliest settlement that anyone could recall, well in advance of the June 30 deadline when the current contract — which is itself a two-year extension of a previous contract — expires. There are approximately 220 teachers in the union, along with three school nurses and several teaching assistants, making the school district one of the largest employers in East Hampton.
    Claude Beudert, a district teacher and a vice president of the local union, thanked the board for “respecting us.” He noted the “negative treatment” of teachers across New York State currently, as many districts make deep cuts to stay within the newly imposed 2-percent property tax cap.
    “We’re all very proud at this point,” Laura Anker Grossman, the school board president, said to Ms. Campbell and Mr. Beudert. “We couldn’t have presented a budget within the tax cap without your support. I think this is a very positive moment in our district.” Dr. Anker Grossman, who is not seeking reelection and has spent 20 years on the school board, showed emotion as she spoke.
    Ms. Campbell said the terms of the new contract would be discussed with teachers tomorrow, and a vote would be held on Tuesday. She asked the board that the details not be discussed until then.
    She credited the relatively fast negotiations to “a willingness on both sides to keep at heart what is most important to all of us — the children in this district.”
    What if the school board held a budget hearing and nobody spoke? To the astonishment of everyone present, and in complete opposition to last year’s lengthy and contentious budget workshops, the budget presentation on Tuesday night was over and done with in a matter of minutes.
    In fact, prior to a presentation by Isabel Madison, the district’s business administrator, Laura Anker Grossman asked the dozen or so people in the high school auditorium if the budget should in fact be presented at all, since all of those present were familiar faces who had attended the line-by-line budget workshops that have been staged by the district since January.
    “Should we go directly to questions?” she asked.
    “Questions!” someone yelled out.
    “Okay, does anyone have any questions?”
    There were no questions.
    Ms. Madison presented only a single slide of her planned talk, a description of the contingency budget.
    Since the district stayed within the 2-percent tax cap, only a simple majority — above 50 percent — is required to pass the $62.8 million budget, which is a decrease of $1.6 million from the current budget of $64.4 million. However, should the budget not pass on the first vote, to be held on May 15, or the second in June, the district would be forced to a contingency budget.
    The contingency budget is now calculated in a new way, explained Ms. Madison, based on the prior year’s tax levy, with no increase, which would force the East Hampton school district to cut an additional $1.5 million, “which would be very difficult,” she said.
    Board members and Ms. Madison credited the district’s commitment to transparency this year for the lack of opposition to the proposed budget. “We’ve been at this since Jan. 10,” Ms. Madison said. “If people have had a problem or question, they’ve already voiced it.”