Written by Betsy Abraham Wednesday, 02 October 2013 00:00
Hundreds of local educators from all over Nassau County joined Carle Place teachers in a rally last Thursday night, as the Carle Place Teachers Association (CPTA) continued their fight for a contract.
“We are all Carle Place today,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers who came in from Washington D.C for the rally. “This is a tragedy, because the district and educators have made this a great place
Educators from Massapequa, Hicksville, Westbury, Seaford, Port Washington, Levittown and more lined the block and crowded the lawn in front of Carle Place High School, supporting their fellow educators’ fight.
“We need to support our fellow colleagues,” said Nidya Degliomini, president of the Herricks Teacher’s Association. “What happens in one district could happen in another.”
According to Carol Kilgallin, president of the CPTA, Carle Place teachers have been without a contract for nearly three years.
“It’s time to treat Carle Place teachers fairly. (These) teachers do a terrific job everyday of teaching our children. We have a 100 percent graduation rate. Great teachers should be honored and celebrated, not disappointed as we have been the past two and a half years of this process,” Kilgallin said.
According to Kilgallin, one of the items of negotiations is a salary schedule for new hires. With this proposal, the new hires would be making an estimated $30,000 less in 18 years than teachers at that step now currently make, says Kilgallin.
Teachers and parents are outraged by this move, saying that instead of attracting good teachers who want to stay in the district for a long time it will create a “revolving door” environment— where new teachers will come to Carle Place for experience, and then leave after a few years for another district that will pay them a more competitive salary.
"If you're not going to be competitive with other districts in terms of salaries, it only stands to reason that young teachers will not stay here very long," Kilgallin said. "One of the things that is so great about Carle Place is that teachers stay for a long time, teaching generations of students, and that you have continuity."
Teachers and residents filled the Carle Place High School auditorium after the rally, to voice their concerns and frustrations directly to the Board.
Things in the audience turned testy when Board President Barry Dennis read aloud a letter sent to Carle Place residents. The letter sought to “set the record straight" stating that Carle Place teacher salaries were among the highest in New York. The letter also stated that “the rate of growth in school district spending is unsustainable, and salaries and benefits are, by far, the largest portion of our expenditures.”
The letter said that while the teachers’ contracts did expire on June 30, 2011, they are still working with a contract.
“Specifically, under the 'Triborough Amendment' to the Taylor Law, teachers are still working under the terms and conditions of the last contract. This means that for teachers with less than 18 years’ experience, they continue to receive 'step' increases which have averaged 2.7 percent of salary per teacher each year. The only difference is that teachers do not receive salary increases in addition to their 'step' increases,” the letter said.
Teachers openly expressed their distaste and residents voiced their support for the district’s educators at the meeting.
“I have found the teachers to be more than supportive and they have made me their partner in education,” one Carle Place mother of two said. “I know they have our students’ best interests in mind, despite what’s going on. I understand it’s difficult to give more, but to give less is an insult.”
“Teachers at Carle Place devote their lives to us,” said one Carle Place High School senior. “Everything they do is for the students.”
“These teachers deserve better,” one Carle Place resident said. “This great community’s going to take a hit because we’re not going to attract the best teachers, as we have for so long.
Because of the ongoing negotiations, the board declined to comment on the validity of the salary schedule for new hires. However, trustee Anthony Bulzomi said that the board is trying to work out a contract that is fair to both the
teachers and the taxpayers.
“There’s a false premise that we as a board are against the teachers, and that’s the furthest from the truth,” Bulzomi said. “We have great teachers, but just because we have great teachers doesn’t mean we can go against our taxpayers and give them something that is not fair for everybody.”
According to the letter the Board of Trustees sent out, district representatives have met with the Teachers Association 14 times since 2011, including three sessions this year (one of which was attended by all members of the board).
Contract negotiations will continue next month.
“We’ll continue negotiating, we’ve never not negotiated. We want to get this done quickly, but we’re just not getting to that point where both sides are happy,” Bulzomi said.