With jubilation, Chappaqua's school board approved a new contract with the district's teachers' union at its Wednesday night meeting, following the organization's earlier vote in favor.
The new deal with the Chappaqua Congress of Teachers will last for two school years, including 2013-14 and 2014-15. Had a new deal not been reached, under state law - it's a provision called the Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law - the district would have faced $1.5 million more in expenses because the old agreement's terms would have remained in place.
“During these difficult financial times, this MOA [memorandum of agreement] puts students first and shows a shared commitment to continuing to provide an excellent education,” Superintendent Lyn McKay said in a press release. “I would like to thank all of those involved in the negotiations for the many hours spent in open, honest, and meaningful discussions resulting in this agreement.”
"This new agreement shows respect for our teachers as professionals and ensures that Chappaqua students continue to receive the highest quality public education while minimizing program cuts and job losses," said Ellen Pincus, who is president of the CCT, in the same release. The deal represents a milestone for Pincus, who is a special education teacher at Douglas G. Grafflin Elementary School. She plans to retire in June and the board approved her resignation later on in its meeting.
Under the deal, the "average" salary increase will be 1.69 percent for 2013-14 and then 1.72 percent for the 2014-15 school year. Health insurance contribution rates, which are currently 11 percent, will rise to 12.25 percent for the next school year and then to 13.5 percent for 2014-15. There will also be a freeze in "step" compensation increases, with a flat $1,950 addition instead for each teacher.
The contract also has rises in the modest coaching stipends for teachers involved with district sports teams. There will be a 1-percent raise for 2013-14 and a 1.5-percent increase for 2014-15.
The current contract with the CCT expires in June, at the end of the school year. It was originally a 4-year deal, from 2008-12, but in January 2011 it was extended for a year when the union agreed to give back $1 million in money promised under the original agreement.
District officials were thrilled to have a deal.
McKay, at the board meeting, said it was a “culmination of many hours over many months,” noting talks that took place.
Board Vice President Alyson Kiesel described the dialogue as people coming together as a community, respecting everyone's position and keeping kids “at the center of the discussion.”
Board President Victoria Tipp described the agreement as one that will move the district towards a more “sustainable [financial] future.”
Tipp also noted that the deal put the district in "a better place next year for the development of our budget.” The meeting also happened to be when the proposed 2013-14 budget was unveiled. It calls for a 2.4-percent tax levy increase but a net cut of 12.39 jobs.
However, board members felt that while fiscal progress has been made with the agreement, the district still faces a big challenge because of unfunded state mandates. In the coming school year, for example, the district is facing millions of dollars in required pension contributions.
“We're not going to solve them in a day," said board member Randall Katchis, who also praised the deal.
Talks for the contract started in the summer, said board member Karen Visser, who described it as a collaborative effort.
The district continues to negotiate with its three other unions, who include custodial and clerical employees.