In response to the Herricks Teachers’ Association statement that was read by HTA President Jane Morales at the last board meeting on Feb. 28, Herricks Board of Education President Christine Turner distributed the following statement during the March 5 meeting at the community center:
At the Jan. 19, 2012 meeting of the board of education, Mrs. Turner made the following announcement on behalf of the board regarding negotiations with the HTA:
We regret to announce that discussions between the board and the Herricks Teachers Association regarding possible revision of the current contract have ended.
As the members of the board expressed to the representatives of the HTA last week, the members of the board appreciate the willingness of the HTA to open discussions as well as the offer they made. While the current HTA contract was negotiated prior to the current circumstances, it was negotiated fairly and it was agreed to by both parties at the time. The HTA was under no obligation to re-open the contract of to make any offer.
Over the past several months the board proposed a number of different ideas and moved substantially on several key points, most notably on the issue of extending the current contract for an additional two years as part of a package involving concessions for 2012-13 and 2013-14. The offer from the HTA at the end was virtually identical to the offer at the start. While the HTA offer would have provided relief for the next two years, the board could not accept it for several reasons:
a. We must assume that the tax cap is here for the foreseeable future. Accordingly, we were unwilling to trade some current relief at the cost of substantially compounding future problems.
b. The package offered by the teachers was considerably less than what was offered and agreed to by Herricks secretaries, custodians and administrators. Last spring the secretaries and custodians gave up most of the increase they were due to receive in 2011-12, the last year of their current contract. Secretaries and custodians did receive an extension but at a level considerably less than what the teachers asked for and with no deferral of the 5 percent increase in their health insurance contribution in June 2012.
The administrators, whose current contract is concurrent with the term of the teachers’ agreement, gave up half of their increase for their last three years and agreed to assume the work of administrative positions being collapsed. They did not ask for or receive an extension. Herricks teachers were the only group in Herricks to receive a full raise this year and giving them a better deal for future than employee groups which stepped forward already seems unfair and inappropriate.
c. The offer from the HTA was substantially less than agreements reachers with teachers in Great Neck, East Williston and Jericho.
This is a very tough situation. We have deep respect for the job our teachers do for the children of our community. Our respect has not and will not change. We had hoped to be able to reach a mutually acceptable deal which would ease some of the financial challenges we face over the next couple of years, allowing us to save jobs as well as programs and services for students. That our teachers were willing to talk and to make an offer is a testament to them. We simply did not believe that what they were willing to offer was sufficient and that the long term cost was too great.
To reiterate, the HTA made a proposal in late 2011 which would have saved approximately $2.8 million over two years. Those savings would certainly have helped, but a number of aspects of the proposal were deemed by the board to be unacceptable.
- A two-year extension which would prevent the board from addressing other important issues until 2016.
- Increases (1.5 percent + deferred steps) which were beyond those agreed to by other Herricks bargaining units that had promptly agreed to salary concessions in spring 2011.
- Increases (1.5 percent + deferred steps) which was beyond those negotiated in comparable districts at the same time.
In an effort to reach an agreement, the board made a number of separate counteroffers to this specific proposal from the HTA, the last three of which were presented when we last met and which were as follows:
- Hard freeze (2012-12 and/or 2013-14) in exchange for each year of extension.
- Accept the teachers’ proposal except for the extension.
- Accept the teachers’ proposal for the 2012-13 only, allowing each aide to see how the tax cap and economy would impact the district.
Each counter offer was rejected without compromise, and the HTA simply reiterated their original offer without modification. In other words, the HTA simply wanted the board to accept their offer as proposed.
Although the board very much wished throughout its discussions with the HTA to find savings and preserve jobs and programs, it was not willing to sacrifice the future for short term gains.