Education Comes Before Pay in Elwood

ELWOOD, New York, May 29

BY: Andrew Wroblewski

While the Elwood Board of Education and Teachers’ Alliance (ETA) came to an agreement earlier this month regarding the district’s newest labor contract, it’s fair to say that the deal favors one side more than the other.

The Elwood school board secured a three-year successor contract to the ’09-’14 agreement – which expires June 30, 2014 – with the ETA that will extend to June 30, 2017 and will slow the rate of total salary growth for Elwood teachers.

The good news, though: all parties involved appear satisfied.

“The contract the teachers overwhelmingly ratified last week was a contract [through which] many of them took less money than if they had no contract at all,” Dan Ciccone, Elwood school board’s vice president, said at a board of education meeting last week. “I think that is a testament to the commitment they have for this community… and a testament to what they are doing for our children.”

The agreement aims to address a major fiscal concern of virtually all school districts in New York: salary growth. In order to help ease the strain that salary growth has on Elwood, the contract will allow for a salary increase of 0.5 percent, each year, up to 2017.

In addition, a step freeze will be instilled for the ’14-’15 school year – with half-step increases promised for the final two years of the contact. This contract provision is typically instilled so that movements up the salary schedule based upon accrued years of service can be postponed, according to a press release issued by the school district.

But that didn’t appear to faze the ETA.

“We know it is crucial to work together to achieve outcomes that serve the greatest good,” Lorelei Stephens, president of the ETA, said in a press release. “Our membership is pleased with this agreement and appreciates the ongoing support of the Elwood community.”

Also addressed in the contract were involuntary staff transfers, the use of personal days during unexpected calendar changes, sick leave borrowing and donation, personal leave, course approval and distance learning.

“Salaries in our enterprise, like most businesses, represent the largest cost center in the budget,” Peter Scordo, Elwood’s superintendent, said in a press release of the agreement, crucial to development for further fiscal planning due to the tax cap environment. “Creating a sustainable school district budget within the tax cap that preserves the program and services our community wants is our greatest challenge. The new agreement is a big push in the right direction.”

Originally published: Long Islander News: Record (Thursday, May 29, 2014;  A5)

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