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Northport District,Teachers Remain Far Apart on Contract Talks

Mediation efforts still stalled as district presses for a hard freeze; union pleased with election of all four of its endorsed candidates.

Representatives from the and the United Teachers of Northport met Monday with mediator Robert Simmelkjaer in an attempt to move contract talks along.

On April 14, the UTN had offered a , in which they offered to take no increase to their salaries and no cash payment of step increments for the current school year as part of a four-year contract. According to union president Antoinette Blanck, the district still continues to push for a hard freeze.

Blanck says the district also rejected the union’s LIPA contingency plan proposal, saying that it is not a “positive advantage” for the district. That proposal offered various scenarios if the tax certiorari resulted in a tax revenue reduction to the district.

Blanck expressed disappointment at the district’s response. “We were trying to do our fair share in what would be a bad situation,” she said of the LIPA proposal. “We were trying to be proactive.” The next mediation meeting is scheduled for June 1.

More union solidarity events are in the works before the end of the school year to boost the morale of unit members. “Those actions aren’t just for the district, but also for our members to show we stand together,” Blanck said. A PDF copy of UTN’s May 17 response is attached to this article.

As for the Board of Education election results, Blanck was pleased to see all four of the union’s endorsed candidates elected. Jennifer Thompson had not been endorsed by the UTN last year, but Blanck said the union had been impressed to see her in action. “We definitely felt she was our number one choice this year.”

Joseph Sabia was equally impressive during his interview with union representatives. “We were impressed with Joe’s willingness to speak his mind,” Blanck said. She noted that a lot of discourse takes place between board members during executive sessions, which are not open to residents. “The public needs to know that the board is discussing difficult questions. I think Joe isn’t going to be afraid of that – to get people thinking in public.”

Blanck also spoke highly of Tammie Topel’s “spunk and drive.” She was appreciative of Topel’s willingness to take initiative, and her ability to see projects through from beginning to end.

Calling Kristen Gavin the “quiet one," Blanck said the union was impressed by her thought process as well as her willingness to learn. “I think all four bring something different to the table," Blanck said.

East N'ptr May 20, 2011 at 01:18 PM
I'm confused. I thought the UTN agreed to the hard freeze for the current '10-11 school year? Are they asking for double-step movement after this year? Debbie, can you clarify? The other article about UTN counter proposal made me think they were agreeing to the hard freeze for this school year. If not, that's a little sneaky, no?
enpt mom May 20, 2011 at 03:02 PM
I for one am sick and tired of the teachers union's nonsense. Don't they get it???? Most of the people in this community (except for the teachers) have been in hard freezes for at least a year or two. They don't have job security in the form of tenure, they don't have the ability to bank their vacation and sick days to get a huge payout upon retirement, they don't get "step increases," raises for taking professional development and yearly raises. They don't have the ability to "raise their morale," by wearing solidarity uniforms to work and parading up and down the local streets. If myself or my husband did this in our jobs we would be fired - in fact, I was laid off this year due to a downturn in my company's business. I urge the board to continue to stand firm and represent the entire community, not just the teachers who live in it.
ptamom May 20, 2011 at 03:48 PM
enpt mom You are a breath of fresh air !!!!!!!!!!!!!! you totally get it. Our teachers salaries and benefits are draining us and they have the nerve to say a fair settlement .Everyone's 401k took a beating and are now 201k if at best not theres we the taxpayer have to make up for the shortfall . That benefit should be abolished. When the salaries weren't upward of 100k that seemed like a reasonable request now it's absurd
christine matis May 20, 2011 at 06:57 PM
The union negotiation has to be with an open mind and rather than taking an axe to all.. If one is unhappy regarding benefit packages or want to cap salaries write to both Governor Cuomo and your legislature to make the changes in Albany. That is where these changes need to be discussed not during negotiations. Regarding salaries, teachers agreed to a freeze for one year. I think it is unfair to ask them to take a 3 year freeze. More importantly during union negotiations the community should be supporting teachers in obtaining the necessary resources to teach. Teachers require support from school districts to give them the tools to meet the needs of students and mandates from Albany. In addition they need parental support in ensuring their child is accountable in knowing the lesson plan, doing their homework and behaving in school. With that said, teachers and administration also need to ensure that they are prepared and utilize the resources available in order to inspire youth and get them "to think". This is a partnership between all. I also sympathize with working parents. My husband and I both work 2 jobs and we also live paycheck to paycheck. Balance is important but being unfair is not.
Debbie Sullivan May 21, 2011 at 11:13 AM
Thanks for posting, East N'ptr. To clarify: yes, they did agree to a hard freeze, but according to Blanck, the district is looking for a hard freeze beyond this year.
ptamom May 21, 2011 at 12:20 PM
The budget supported the teachers they are getting wireless net books .Why do they need that when they all have computers in there classrooms and access to there email thru there personal pc or wireless device .If they as professionals feel they need one why don't they purchase one and write it off on there personal income tax like the private sector ? Why should it again be on the tax payer? White boards great for the kids now lets count how many classrooms have them and than count the staff that hasn't taken the time to go for staff development.As far as a three year freeze come on we all know they are still getting step increases in the private sector no raises were to be had layoffs and more job responabilities were handed off to who was left standing. Parental input is paramount I agree
ptamom May 21, 2011 at 12:31 PM
but why when we try to to have open discussions we get labeled pushy by the liberal educators club? Have you looked at AIS in this district ? Oh did I forget to mention there is no district policy , that is clearly outlined by NYS dept of ED that the board must approve the policy every 2 years. Instead it is left up to our principals to give our kids what they feel they need to succeed .According to our assessments and more children being identified something isn't working . I say give the most seasoned teachers yes the highest paid the lowest proficient students and let them use turn them around if not you are ineffective and a total waste of our tax $ It is called accountabitity in the REAL world
ptamom May 21, 2011 at 12:48 PM
behavior yes a parents job but why when children are clearly bulling another student there rights are protected more than the victim? Culture comes from the top down WELLS in the HS what is that gang like mentality possessing a area ?Lets mention the higher thinkers unless you have been identified and even than if you choose not to remove your child from the core class why is it that our teachers can't give differential learning.Allot wrong in the schools if you are paying attention our district is great for the remedial student clips the wings of those that ahead of there peers and not giving our struggling students a strong foundation so it is genetics and a childs inner determination with the help of the parents that will help them succeed .By the way we rank 78 in the nation 14 years ago we were 10th We would support the teachers if they weren't throwing temper tantrums in front of our kids
ptamom May 21, 2011 at 12:51 PM
Funny I haven't seen them outside with there signs for a" fair settlement" since there negotiations went public . The cat was let out of the bag they weren't asking for fair they wanted to raid the cookie jar our reserve fund
East N'ptr May 21, 2011 at 01:31 PM
@ptamom, they have been outside the high school on Elwood Rd. pretty regularly doing solidarity walks. I don't agree with the displays in front of kids, but I can certainly appreciate their anger. The UTN brought forth what I consider a very fair counter proposal that demonstrated their understanding of the issues the district is facing, AND they seem to be open to further negotiations and discussion. But the Board of Ed have shut down any discussion of compromise, and that is unfortunate. Lots of people haven't seen raises for years, but the companies they work for aren't stashing away millions of dollars in reserves or profits either. Wouldn't you be resentful if your company wouldn't give you a raise, but their profits were through the roof? As far as the netbooks, I think most teachers will agree with you that they aren't needed. I could be wrong, I bet they'd forego that technology and take the money in their paychecks instead. Who doesn't already have their own laptop these days? We have big problems in our district. The distrust, low morale, the lack of transparency, the sense of entitlement, back stabbing and rumor mongering for political purposes is disconcerting. Instead we should be coming together for solutions that are in the best interest of our kids. I hope the new Board members can turn things around.
ptamom May 21, 2011 at 01:46 PM
The low morale is on the teaching staff because they want more money .What suffers? the education of our children .Yes, many companies are making money but choose not to spread the wealth that's life in the REAL job sector . Our reserves are too high and it is natural for the UTN to want more but it takes the adult to look and say I have it good, hard job at times but my salary and benefits are guaranteed and so is my job no matter how I preform health care contributions are minimal when most pay 1200 a month to insurance there families there's are a bill of the taxpayers for life ..If in fact the teachers don't want the technology component than why do they not speak up as far as negotiations YOU cant reason with unreasonable minded people
fed up with knowitalls May 21, 2011 at 02:44 PM
Who says the teachers asked for all that equipment. It seems that the administration is making them get it. The teachers would rather take their "free" time doing lesson plans, talking to parents and working with kids NOT immortalizing their day on some wireless devise that could crash and loose everything!
Karin Stucchio May 21, 2011 at 04:52 PM
It's been long overdue for the Northport-East Northport district to get on board technologically. The initiatives of our administration and board should be applauded. There are very good reasons for the district to provide netbooks to the staff. Here are just 3 of many: 1) student computer training - the teachers need to know how to use the computers before they are distributed to the students in the classrooms. How will the students learn how to use the machines if the teachers have had no hands-on use of the computers themselves? 2) trickle-down training - with all of the teachers using the same computer model, same operating system, same system configuration and same software, they can help each other out, as I'm sure they do with the smart boards. 3) technical support - providing technical support to standard issue machines with identical system configurations and software is much easier and more cost effective than providing tech support for the myriad of operating systems and system configurations that are on the market today. Technical support staff would only need to be trained on the specific computer, operating system, system configuration and distributed software that will be on the teacher's computers. con't
Karin Stucchio May 21, 2011 at 04:52 PM
Requiring the teachers to use or purchase their own machines for work is just not practical. No one likes change. I'm sure that teachers that are not yet using their smart boards to their fullest potential today will one day wonder how they taught without it. And residents who are unaware themselves of how useful smart boards are for educating students should make it their business to see a demonstration of its use in the classroom. Last week at the Northport Middle School PTSA meeting, a student violinist provided a facinating demonstration of a music practice computer application on a smart board. Sadly, there were only about 12 people in attendance. Karin Stucchio PTA Parent Representative on the Northport East Northport District Technology Committee
christine matis May 22, 2011 at 01:23 AM
Thank you Karin for your contribution to this discussion. You are so right. So many are missing the value of technology and how students are using technology in math, science, the arts etc and will continue to use it. Teacher development is necessary. It is also important for one to just play with it. How many individuals underestimated the value of a media website such as Patch in communicating ones ideas and thoughts? I am sorry for all that just don't get it.
Just a working mom May 22, 2011 at 01:51 AM
I generally support teachers and never thought I'd be saying this, but the teachers need to live in the same world the rest of us do. The post above nailed it, we've gotten little or no raises for the last few years, have no tenure, no pensions, work longer hours, etc. If you look at the public information on individual teachers' salaries, the have gotten huge raises over the past three years. The few I looked up went from making about $80k to around $100k within the last three years. And they get summers off, pay little for benefits and a pension. All while spending 5 or fewer hours in the classroom...and probably less than 7 or 8 total hours working. They deserve more? Are you kidding me? It's time for them to belt tighten like the rest of us.
christine matis May 22, 2011 at 02:05 AM
Venting does not do a thing. If you are that upset take an active stance and write to your legislatures and Governor Cuomo to create a change. In addition, write to the Board that you elected.
PTAmom May 22, 2011 at 01:08 PM
You drank the kool aid and believe the manta!!!!!!!! technology awesome yes. The district could have passed on there collective buying power of the net books to the staff .In the REAL world employees' pay for what ever tools they need to do there job it's not on the taxpayer and guess what it's a TAX write off Solution to the same system if that is what you are hanging your hat on besides by the time our kids get net books in there hands the staff net books will be DINOSAURS .The kids can navigate circles around most adults so who will be showing who lame argument. It's sad that the morale is low because of the almighty dollar . It is human nature to want more but it is true many companies are making millions and not sharing there profits with employees welcome to life in the REAL world . Why can't they be adults and say I am lucky to have a job there are 10 teachers waiting for everyone that is employed. Hard jobs at times get $ for the time I actually am working , guaranteed pensions W/ little contributions to health care FOR LIFE , job security no matter how poorly I perform .Instead they try to convince OUR kids that they don't make enough .Ask around I have !!!!!!!!how many have had staff development or want it your jaw will drop. If they didn't welcome the tech component they should of spoken up .I will be lobbying hard for my children to have those who are trained and using it hard to find
NPT MOM May 22, 2011 at 03:06 PM
The alarm clock rang but the UTN didn't wake up yet. They really and truly need to get out and see what is going on in the job forum on Long Island. They have a great gig and they should honor it by doing as their neighbors are doing. Job hiring freezes, pay freezes etc., tightening their belts.
Karin Stucchio May 22, 2011 at 04:24 PM
I know of no corporation in the real world that requires its employees to pay for tools that they require them to use for their jobs - especially computers. Try getting that into the teachers' contract. The students may be able to run circles around the teachers when it comes to technology and that is exactly the point. Learning tools should never be used in the classroom that the teachers themselves don't know how to use.
Really not Surprised May 22, 2011 at 05:36 PM
Look in the classified ads, must have own car, must have own truck, must have own tools, must have PC, etc roofer- must have own truck and tools, sales associate- must have own car, real estate marketing firm-must have own computer, delivery-must have own car, clean license and laptop...just to name a few.
Barbara May 22, 2011 at 05:41 PM
Debbie, Is your source of information for this article only the UTN president? While the UTN states its offer "In year one of the settlement, the teachers of your District will work with a zero % increase to their salaries and no cash payment of step increment" Is it not true that they are in fact looking for some kind of increase (step or salary) on the LAST day of 'year one' presumably for the compounding benefit of future years' increases? I am not leading here - just would like clarification on the finer points. The Devil is in the details!
East N'ptr May 22, 2011 at 05:54 PM
I'm with Barbara...I think this needs a bit more clarification. My interpretation of "no cash payment for step" means they may have a salary freeze for the year, but that there's no freeze on step, which means they would get a larger raise down the road. If this is incorrect, then by all means please clarify.
East N'ptr May 22, 2011 at 06:14 PM
There is most definitely value in the technology. I don't think anyone disagrees that having interactive whiteboards and net books are great tools, and one day they will be a necessity in education. But at the moment, we have high taxes in a down economy, teachers who are being asked to take a salary freeze "until further notice" and a BOE who doesn't seem to be in favor of compromise. In this case, I can understand the reluctance to embrace technology when you feel its being forced upon you with little or no discussion. As someone already mentioned, it's human nature to resist change. That's only magnified when the powers that be insist that it's "for your own good" instead of listening to other options and exploring a happy medium.
East N'ptr May 22, 2011 at 06:18 PM
By the way, I think there has been some great discussion of both sides on this thread, but I would like to see less defensiveness, and more ideas on what can be done to meet on some middle ground with regards to both the teachers contract and the technology initiatives. Anyone?
Nick Folger May 22, 2011 at 10:58 PM
For starters, the district should disclose the initiatives, the time frame, and the cost by initiatives of the technology plan. AND.... also indicate how the technology will improve the learning outcomes of each student and how the district plans to measure it. I don't want to hear that technology is necessary and therefore the district must buy in... that is not enough. I want to see improvement in student skills and I want proof
christine matis May 23, 2011 at 01:13 AM
As I am also learning about technology and education. I am forwarding to you some articles that I hope will be helpful to all. Alan November is one of the top technology in education pundits and is very influential Here's a link. http://www.mysouthlakenews.com/blog/post/822 Here are some of his articles: http://novemberlearning.com/resources/archive-of-articles/ in particular read "Beyond technology: the end of the job... "
deborah cosher June 03, 2011 at 02:59 PM
Opinions over the teachers picketing are varied and volatile. I would think that both sides would agree it is unpleasant to have children start the day with such negativity. This appears to be a microcosm of world and country current events. Two opposing sides unable to reach beyond there own interests to find compromise in difficult financial times. We all need teachers. We all want the best teachers for our children. We all want to pay them a fair wage so they too can live in the surrounding communities. A fair wage and benefits- what is reasonable now in 2011? Many in a community have lost jobs or have had their wages or hours decreased. Many have been out of work for a year or more.
deborah cosher June 03, 2011 at 03:02 PM
continued : Do teachers and the union realize that in the healthcare community many people even with jobs are suffering. You don’t see this in the news because many are self-employed and no union is speaking up for them. Ask your Physical therapist, Chiropractor, Dentist, Dental hygienist to name only a few how their incomes have been affected. In these and other healthcare professions high co-pays, lower reimbursements, patients losing insurance have had a serious negative impact on their salaries. These self-employed workers get no pension, no medical or dental benefits, no sick or vacation days! They were to save for these on their own out of their salaries. Many of their incomes over the last four or so years have not gone up or stayed the same but decreased. Where can they picket? This is just one example from one sector in the community. So let’s all realize times are hard and we should respect all in our community who are suffering not just the ones with a powerful union. Times have changed. We honor our teachers we just can’t continue to pay the requests for more at this time.

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