Sag Harbor Board, Teachers Reach New Contract Agreement

Jim Kinnier, a Pierson math teacher, is president of the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor. Christine Sampson photo

The Teachers Association of Sag Harbor and the School District have agreed on a new five-year contract that for the first time gives teachers annual pay raises that are tied to the Consumer Price Index. The pact also includes school nurses among faculty members represented by the union.

The agreement adds a new paid position, “lead teacher,” to the roster of additional roles in which teachers can serve, and places additional restrictions on the use of the “sick bank,” which is used by teachers who have run out of sick time.

The agreement was the product of about two years of negotiations, according to superintendent Katy Graves.

“When both sides are equally unhappy, we have a good contract,” Ms. Graves said. “There was a lot of time and effort put in. The teachers made compromises that were meaningful.”

Pierson Middle-High School math teacher Jim Kinnier, president of the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH), said during Monday’s school board meeting that he hopes this contract is “the start of something new.”

“We’ve been through some very contentious negotiations in the past where there has been a lot of drama, and the negotiations have been public and have turned quite nasty at times,” he said. “This was not an easy one, it took a long time, but what I think we did together well is that we kept it private, and it is my hope that we continue to work together to that end in the future.”

TASH members had been working without a contract since last year. The new contract is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Teachers will receive a .75-percent pay increase for the 2016-17 year. Over the next four years of the contract — including the current school year — salary increases will be based on the consumer price index for urban consumers as issued by New York State in the previous year. The CPI influences the state’s cap on tax levy increases during school budget season, with a minimum of a .6-percent salary increase and a maximum of a 1.2-percent increase.

According to the contract, one lead teacher will be appointed in each of the five core academic subjects and will run monthly department meetings. Those teachers will each receive a $7,500 stipend. Mr. Kinnier said the new positions will lead to greater collaboration among teachers.

“The issue was we really wanted [the contract] to benefit instruction in the classroom,” he said. “We really think it’s going to improve what we do for the students. That was very important to us.”

The contract also brings in the nurses, who previously did not have their own labor unit. Nurses will receive a 1.9-percent salary increase each year and have access to medical training.

Regarding the “sick bank,” teachers must now provide more specific documentation for “illnesses, injuries, accidents or operations of a serious nature” in order to tap into it. According to the contract, the bank is a communal allotment of 200 sick days provided by the district each year in case individual teachers run out of individual sick days.

Another provision provides that newly hired employees who stay with Sag Harbor through retirement will pay the same rate of contribution to their health insurance premiums as retirees that they pay while employed full-time.

The Sag Harbor School Board approved the contract on Monday, but the vote was not unanimous. Just before the vote was to take place, board member Susan Lamontagne, apparently referring to the hour-and-a-half executive session that preceded the public meeting, asked, “Are we able to talk about the concerns raised that we have just been apprised of?”

Board president Diana Kolhoff replied, “The things we discussed in executive session are not public.”

Ms. Lamontagne abstained from the vote and board member Chris Tice voted “no.”

“I want to thank TASH for sticking with us in the negotiations. We appreciate it. It’s been a long haul and a lot of hard work,” Ms. Tice said just before the vote. “I am a big supporter of teachers, so I don’t want my ‘no’ vote in any way to be misinterpreted as not being supportive of teachers. I just feel like there’s been some misinformation.”