Skip to main content

East Hampton Teachers Get an ‘Amicable’ Raise

Thu, 07/11/2019 - 21:10

Teachers in the East Hampton schools will get a 1.75-percent pay raise next year — their largest in five years — according to a new contract that school officials say was “amicably” negotiated.

The East Hampton School Board unanimously approved the agreement on Tuesday, with Richard Burns, the school superintendent, and Arthur Goldman, president of the East Hampton Teachers Association, both calling it a fair contract.

“It was a true negotiation — a give-and-take,” Mr. Burns said. “It stayed on the table, as opposed to all of the negative things that could have occurred.”

Jerel Cokley, East Hampton’s assistant superintendent for business, said yesterday the increases in salaries and other financial aspects of the contract will add up to approximately $1 million in the 2019-2020 budget, but that it had all been taken into account when the district prepared that budget.

“There are many variables that go into that number,” Mr. Cokley said.

This year’s pay raise matches the increase the district gave the teachers in the 2015-2016 school year. Teachers took salary freezes in the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years before the union was able to negotiate regular increases again.

The new agreement includes pay increases of .75 percent in its second year and 1.5 percent in its third year. Also, it adds an annual longevity payment for teachers with at least 24 years of service to the district, teaching assistants with at least 15 years, and school nurses with at least 26 years. Hourly rates and stipends for special assignments and additional responsibilities will also rise by 1.75 percent.

Mr. Burns said successful contract negotiations were those that wind up with both parties “not totally satisfied.”

“Teachers, all staff, realize what a special place East Hampton is,” he said. “There’s a respect for the realities” of the New York State-mandated cap on tax levy increases for school and municipal budgets.

Mr. Goldman said the teachers “are fortunate” to work in a district that supports their goals, in a community that largely supports the schools itself. He said about 90 percent of the teachers voted to support the new contract.

“Negotiations are always a process,” he said by phone Tuesday. “It always comes down to time and money with the taxpayers — what the district feels the taxpayers can bear and what the teachers and professionals deserve. The pay raises are below what the cost of living is. . . . The number we end up at is never one that either side starts at.”

The new contract also incrementally increases the teachers’ share of health insurance costs. Most teachers will see their share rise from 14.5 percent to 16.5 percent over the course of the contract. Those hired beginning July 1 this year will pay 17.5 percent of the cost of their health insurance.

The contract also adds “flex time” for teachers on a case-by-case basis, allowing them to start their day as early as 7 a.m. or end as late as 4 p.m. It also gives the school administration flexibility to add a professional development day for teachers prior to Labor Day.

In other East Hampton School Board news, J.P. Foster was re-elected president of the board and Christina DeSanti was re-elected vice president. Both were the unanimous choices of their colleagues. This will be the sixth year for both Mr. Foster and Ms. DeSanti in their respective roles.

The school board also hired quite a few new employees.

Aimee Pell was appointed as a part-time psychologist and Danielle Zarate was hired as a special-education teacher. Mr. Burns said they would support a group of students who previously attended a Board of Cooperative Educational Services program requiring a more specialized, therapeutic academic setting. He explained that BOCES moved its program from its Bellport campus farther west to a Sachem School District location, prompting East Hampton to re-examine placing its students there.

“It’s better for the children to remain in our community, first and foremost,” Mr. Burns said. “It was an hour and a half each way, and they’re fragile kids. It also turns out to be more cost-effective for us.”

Among the teachers who were hired on Tuesday, Christine Taylor was appointed as a family and consumer science teacher to replace someone who left East Hampton for a position closer to home.

“It’s a problem we have” in retaining employees, Mr. Burns said. “We definitely have a geographic handicap. If you get to Hampton Bays, you’re still traveling over an hour to work. The bottom line is that housing is the issue here.”

The school board also appointed four new custodians to replace the four who retired last year, including two, Orlando Marin and James Pryal, who started out as substitute custodians in East Hampton and have earned full-time positions.