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Story - Education

Oct 20, 2009 7:35 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Sag Harbor School Board, teachers to resume negotiations

Oct 20, 2009 7:35 PM

Members of the Sag Harbor School Board say they are once again willing to enter into contract negotiations with the teachers union, without preconditions, after nearly a year of silence.

The change in the board’s position came after a nearly two-hour protest staged by the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor on Monday. The protest, a march which began at 4:30 p.m. on Long Wharf, brought out more than 250 protesters, including representatives from teachers unions at schools from as far away as Commack.

The marchers, many clad in gray “Teachers Association of Sag Harbor” T-shirts, ended up at a field at Pierson High School, outside the window of the library, where the School Board was meeting in a closed-door executive session.

Once assembled at the field, the protesters chanted—loud enough for the board members to hear—for recommenced negotiations and a fair contract.

“What do we want?” shouted one Sag Harbor teacher.

“A contract!” marchers responded.

“When do we want it?”


By the time the board meeting ended Monday night, School Board President Walter Wilcoxen said the district would sit down at the negotiating table with the teachers association without any preconditions. He said throughout the meeting that the school’s attorney would contact the teachers association bargaining representative so that negotiations could begin.

The Teachers Association of Sag Harbor’s last contract, a four-year agreement, expired in June 2008. The last time negotiators for both sides met was in December 2008. There are 123 teachers in the union.

“We haven’t been face to face for 10 months,” said Eileen Kochanasz, the president of the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor.

According to Jim Kinnier, a union officer, the School Board wants to see the teachers’ raises pegged at 2.5 percent each year. The association, however, believes the raises should be closer to 3.9 percent each year, but explained that the group is willing to bend on that figure.

The teachers also receive incremental salary bumps called step increases each year that range from 2 to 5 percent based on their salary and years of employment. Mr. Kinnier explained that all teachers on Long Island receive raises in addition to step increases.

The two sides have also not been able to agree on how much teachers should contribute to their retirement health insurance. Mr. Kinnier explained that the School Board wants to see all teachers pay for 15 percent of the health insurance they receive in retirement. Currently, only teachers hired after 2000, about a third of the faculty, contribute toward health insurance.

The teachers blame the School Board for the stalemate on the employment contract. Mr. Kinnier said that the teachers association is willing to bend on their requests but have not heard the same from the representatives from the board. “There’s so little movement and little indication that there will be any movement,” he said. “They’re at 2.5 percent for the salary raise, but they haven’t expressed any willingness to change.”

According to a presentation given by the board last year, the teachers’ proposed salary increases in the new contract will generate an increase of more than 20 percent in spending on salaries over three school years. The districts’ raise proposals will cause an increase in spending of around 16 percent.

In an interview, Mr. Wilcoxen said that the board does want to negotiate with the teachers association—but in a productive manner.

“We’re being accused of not paying attention and paying enough time,” he said. “But we’re spending a lot of time, and the superintendent is spending a huge amount of his time.”

In fact, Mr. Wilcoxen explained that he and the board were able to tell the teachers Monday night that they are able to begin negotiations again because he has been working on the matter nonstop for the past two weeks. “We want to negotiate in a fashion beneficial to both parties, and rework 
issues and respect each other’s point of view,” he said.

At the School Board meeting, teachers gave testimonials to their colleagues’ hard work in the district and said that the board was not treating them with respect as educators, and demanded the board explain why it has stalled in negotiations.

“I earned the right to be treated as a professional,” said Michelle Grant, a teacher.

Another teacher, Janice Cosgrove, said that she has suffered in the face of the board decision to not negotiate.

“I committed to this district 20 years ago,” Ms. Cosgrove said. “I take it personally, and it’s belittling. It’s a horrible way to feel.”

There were at least 10 other teachers associations, many with signs supporting their home districts, from across Long Island that attended the march. Teachers from Eastport South Manor, Westhampton Beach, Riverhead, East Hampton, Southampton, Bridgehampton, Tuckahoe, Southold, Commack, and Port Jefferson attended.

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What a shining example of intimidation! Having all of these teacher unions coming out to Sag Harbor to demonstrate and complain about having a 2.5 increase instead of 3.9. I guess teachers being furloughed in California and in other parts of the country have no meaning to those who insist on greed.

Teachers are role models. Kids work every day to please you. Why do you choose to bully, intimidate and harass contract negotiations? Even Southampton Town is facing layoffs.

I ...more
By Soloist (2), Southampton on Oct 20, 09 4:56 PM
You are correct. Ms. cosgrove earns 109,000 dollars per year, and perhaps earns every penny and is good at what she does - it is a difficult profession and well respected, - HOWEVER she earns more than most local Sag Harbor taxpayers. - a little humility goes a long way. If the board is being difficult have them stop, however -no one is starving over there - all the salaries are now available at http://www.seethroughny.net/
By johnnytax (29), new york on Oct 22, 09 9:03 PM
1 member liked this comment
It was a sad spectacle to see all those "teachers" parading and yelling through town; many of them were dragging very young children with them. I guess none of them realize what's going on in the rest of the country.....people losing their jobs, accepting pay cuts just to be able to hold onto their jobs.
But in these hard economic times, these greedy teachers want more than their "allotted" raises.....20% over three years.
They also need to stop wearing those ridiculous tee shirts ...more
By lovesag (17), Sag Harbor on Oct 20, 09 5:14 PM
Why "teachers" in quotations? Teachers aren't allowed to stand up for themselves? And read the article: The teachers are not asking for a 20% increase over three years.
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Oct 20, 09 5:37 PM
2 members liked this comment
Standing up for yourself is a good thing and should always be encouraged - but wearing slogan t-shirts while being paid to teach and complaining that your raise isn't big enough, is something quite different. The teachers union continues to be blind to real world economics and of those who pay for the school system; - why - - - because it's been tolerated and accepted for so long. It is time for that to change - because the system is broken.
By SagHarborBob (91), Sag Harbor on Oct 20, 09 6:59 PM
Instead of being thankful you have a job that gives automatic pay increases. You put your thankless greedy hands out for more while many hang on by a string.
Jim Kinnear thinks it doesn't count if others get it also.
Not only do you use the manipulation of children for your personal gain. You seem to get enjoyment from it. You should all be ashamed of yourselves.
Wear them till they fall apart. They speak volumes of your character.
Don't they get retro pay back to the end of ...more
By double-D (96), southampton on Oct 20, 09 6:56 PM
2 members liked this comment
@peoplefirst, you are right!

These selfless paragons of virtue don't want 20% over three years, they want 28%.

Teachers at 5% step get 16% raise over three years, non-negotiable. They want an additional 3.9% per year in addition to the step, which amounts to an additional 12% over three years. 16 + 12 = 28.

At 3% step (the lowest in the Harbor), that's 9.27% over 3 years. Add the 12% increase they are crying for and you get 21.27% over three years.

To top it ...more
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Oct 20, 09 9:19 PM
If I was a teacher, I'd protest too.

The Board hired Dr. Gratto, ignoring parents, ignoring teachers, ignoring an well-liked and qualified existing administrator, ignoring his abhorrent work history and after not negotiating with the teachers union for two years, they have the audacity to give Gratto a raise? A big raise at that? It's BS.
By RealLocal (76), Bridgehampton on Oct 21, 09 10:00 AM
2 members liked this comment
What's BS is that a group of adults are manipulating impressionable young minds with their BS.
I have waited years for a BOE that doesn't cave in to the Teachers Union.That ex union head damn near buried us while in charge of the BOE.
Their automatic yearly raise is more than sufficient in these times in which we are living.
I can already hear them blame the BOE for poor management of finances when they have to remove positions we can no longer compensate ...more
By double-D (96), southampton on Oct 21, 09 3:26 PM
2 members liked this comment
To real Local:
Number one, your identity is obvious by reading your 41 posts -- and you're not from Bridgehampton.

Second, that being said, Gratto got a raise because the Board was able to evaluate him on an individual basis, within the paremeters of a defined three year agreement -- no tenure -- ever!

Now, if the teachers would like to be evaluated on an individual basis, and have their individual raises based on that evaluation, then I am sure the community and the board ...more
By eastend09 (43), east hampton on Oct 21, 09 5:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
The "No Tenure" for the superintendent is a red herring. The last few administrators reportedly got huge severance settlements upon their departures.
By Whaler Harpoon (6), East Hampton on Oct 24, 09 12:57 PM
Why not let the taxpayers decide on the % of raise for the teachers. After all it is our tax dollars that pay for their salary and it is our taxes that keep going up year after year most of it going to the school. I bet you would not see any raise this year if that was to happen. The shirts the teacher wear your are starting to have the attire that gangs would wear to school. What about the dress code and how come the teachers do not have to abide by it?
By favaunt (24), Sag Harbor on Oct 21, 09 7:23 PM
3 members liked this comment
I'd like for each teacher to have a customized t-shirt, one that states their current income, and the income they are requesting. Lets see how much sympathy they get from onlookers then.
By nicole (96), Hampton Bays on Oct 22, 09 3:13 AM
Maybe all the people saying teachers don't deserve a contract should wear a shirt saying how much they earned last year-their actual earnings, not what they put on their income taxes. I know an awful lot of contracters being paid under the table who are whining about teachers getting paid half of what they get-teachers who pay all of their taxes.

As for the gang attire-that is just dumb-most of the kids wear tee shirts to school as well-is my child in a gang because he has the same shirt ...more
By Callie (30), Sag Harbor on Oct 22, 09 11:00 AM
1 member liked this comment
Perhaps instead of attacking those who actually contribute to our lives and the lives of our children people should redirect their anger to say Wall Street, or Banks, or Health Insurance Companies.

"Modern cynics and skeptics... see no harm in paying those to whom they entrust the minds of their children a smaller wage than is paid to those to whom they entrust the care of their plumbing." ~John F. Kennedy
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Oct 22, 09 4:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
A 2-1/2% raise EACH YEAR on top of automatic annual step of 3-5% is not enough?! Fire them all and hire people who want to work ... oops, can't fire them, they have TENURE.

No sympathy here for someone who gets an automatic 5-1/2% raise every year and can't be fired, especially in this economic climate.
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Oct 22, 09 4:54 PM
2 members liked this comment
Callie: Do you have a clue? I know several teachers who clean pools in the summer for... CASH. They tutor during the summer...for CASH. The wait tables and get tips in the summer...in CASH. They are trainers...for CASH. They drive...for CASH. Do you think they pay taxes on that money they are allowed to earn during the two months of paid vacation? Not only that, they compete and take work away from the others who want to wait tables, drive and do pools (they can actually undercut the pool ...more
By eastend09 (43), east hampton on Oct 22, 09 5:28 PM
2 members liked this comment
One other thing. I just saw an ad in the Sag Harbor Express that urges people to call school board members and they actually put their phone numbers in the paper. Why doesn't someone out there request the salaries of all the teachers, what the value of their medical benefit is, and what the value of their retirement contribution made by the district is. List each teacher individually by name --- it is public information. Then we can see how teacher XYZ makes $120,000, has a medical benefit ...more
By eastend09 (43), east hampton on Oct 22, 09 5:36 PM
1 member liked this comment
i agree .......New site it is amazing everything is now out in the open. http://www.seethroughny.net/ give them a fair contract of course, but get a hand on the spending absolute truth.
By johnnytax (29), new york on Oct 22, 09 9:11 PM
Pretty sad day for the Sag Harbor school district. This board of losers, hires a Superintendent who was fired from 2 schools, then after one year, they give him a huge raise. He is now the highest paid superintendent on the entire east end!!! I can not wait to see how much they will have to pay him to leave . It will happen. His best friend has been hired as superintendent of The Springs School. He hides in his office all day. He will probably do a hatchet job on the Springs Teachers too. The ...more
By bayview (160), Southampton on Oct 22, 09 6:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
Dr. Gratto doesn't get automatic pay increases like teachers. He gets evaluated annually
. NO TENURE!!!!!!!!
I wish each teacher was evaluated annually by the BOE. Boy would things be different.
Iv'e seen several superintendents in my days. Never before has one come in with ways to save money. I believe nearly 1,000,000 dollars.
Now if we could only remove first dibs on coaching to the teachers.
By double-D (96), southampton on Oct 22, 09 9:00 PM
Remember all,

the salaries are not the complete compensation package. Far from it.

Lifetime pensions and full healthcare benefits are part of it too.

A family health insurance plan runs about 20k per year. A guaranteed lifetime pension about 30k per year. depending on age/salary.

I am not saying that they don't deserve it, but you should be comparing apples to apples.
By C Law (354), Water Mill on Oct 23, 09 9:34 AM
To Bayview:
Gratto is not the highest paid superintendent "on the entire east end". That is public information. And the Springs superintendet is not his best friend. They happened to have worked in the same place 25 years ago and have communicated over the years -- something I have done with a bunch of people I once worked with...but they are not my best friends. Get you facts straight before you write about things you obviously know nothing about.
By eastend09 (43), east hampton on Oct 23, 09 11:00 PM
The comment of being friends, was said several times at the public meeting held at the Springs school. Check Your FActs, none of the Superintendents from Montauk to Southampton are making what Grotto is making now !!!!
By bayview (160), Southampton on Oct 24, 09 7:48 PM
The comment of being friends, was said several times at the public meeting held at the Springs school. Check Your FActs, none of the Superintendents from Montauk to Southampton are making what Grotto is making now !!!!
By bayview (160), Southampton on Oct 24, 09 7:52 PM
The comment of being friends, was said several times at the public meeting held at the Springs school. Check Your FActs, none of the Superintendents from Montauk to Southampton are making what Grotto is making now !!!!
By bayview (160), Southampton on Oct 24, 09 7:53 PM
East Hampton superintendent makes more salary and has many other valuable benefits. Gratto gets paid $210,000 and gets health insurance, that's it -- No whole life policy, no car, no deferred investment account paid by the district, etc., etc. Anybody out there willing to say Gratto makes more than the East Hampton Sup?
By eastend09 (43), east hampton on Oct 25, 09 12:32 AM
Did not think so.
By eastend09 (43), east hampton on Oct 25, 09 7:27 PM