Herricks’ board sees blue again

Herricks’ board sees blue again
Members of the Herricks Teachers' Association at Thursday's Board of Education meeting. This is the third occasion since September the staff have shown up in blue because of the contract negotiations. (Photo by Jed Hendrixson)

It appears that the “sea of blue” flowing into the Herricks’ Board of Education meetings is not going anywhere any time soon.

For the second time this month, members of the Herricks Teachers’ Association filled the room at the board’s agenda meeting to protest the status of the teachers’ contract negotiations. The teachers’ association has been working without a contract since June 30.

Board Vice President Brian Hassan read a statement on the negotiations in the stead of President Juleigh Chin, who had prior obligations, as did Trustee Nancy Feinstein.

“The district and the Herricks Teachers’ Association have been engaged in collective bargaining for some time,” Hassan said. “Unfortunately, this effort has not yet produced settlement of the demands of the Association and the proposals made by the District.”

A mediator is currently working with the board and the association to continue negotiations into January of next year.

Hassan dispelled assertions made public by the association that the teachers are working without a contract and why the negotiations were presently unresolved.

“The labor contract with the Herricks Teachers Association expired on June 30, 2018,” Hassan said. “However, a provision of the New York State law that governs labor negotiations in the public sector, known as the Triborough Amendment, requires the School District to continue all the terms of an expired agreement until new terms and conditions of employment are negotiated.”

The state also required the district to grant wage increase amounts even after contract expiration, which the district did in September, amounting to approximately $2,000 to $3,000 salary increases for nearly 60 percent of teachers in the district, Hassan said.

Other contract provisions that have remained in effect after expiration include health and dental insurance, sick, personal and family leave and workday limitations, among others.

As a result of labor contract negotiations prior to the Great Recession in 2008 and a subsequent series of layoffs and settlements over the years, Herricks teachers salaries are currently among the highest in Nassau County, though “they are simply unsustainable by our district and its residents,” Hassan said.

“In closing, the district remains ready, willing and able to negotiate a fair and reasonable settlement with the teachers association,” Hassan said.

“I am here this evening to express how disheartened I am that the board of education and the teachers union have not been able to come to an agreement regarding the teachers’ contract,” resident Donna Profeta, whose two sons attend Denton Avenue elementary school, said.

Profeta gave testaments of the extra efforts and hours that many of the teachers in the district contribute, like tutoring early before school.

“The heart of our school district is educating our children,” Profeta said. “We need to remember that every decision that is made needs to impact students.”

“As active and longtime partners in providing high caliber education for our students we have always been cognizant of the financial constraints, the two percent cap and other costs put on our district and the Herricks community,” HTA president Nidya Degliomini said. “With this in mind, the HTA has offered several proposals that provide a fair solution. We continue to await the board’s counter-proposal that moves all parties forward and not back.”

Also at the meeting, Francesco Fratto, director of World Languages, Language Immersion & English as a New Language,  presented the board with updates to the department’s curriculum review.

Herricks school district offers four choices for language classes: Chinese, French, Italian and Spanish. All four departments will soon have honors level classes, where previously the Spanish department offered honors courses only.

The department will also be partnering with Stony Brook University’s Accelerated College Education Program, so that students in upper-level language classes can take courses for college credit while enrolled at Herricks. The number of students admitted to and enrolling in Stony Brook after graduating has risen consistently over the past four years.

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