Kings Park district, teachers union reach contract deal
The Kings Park Central School District and its teacher union approved a contract late Tuesday after three years of negotiations.
The agreement -- retroactive from July 1, 2011, to June 20, 2017 -- restores four teaching positions and saves about $400,000 for the 2014-2015 school year by implementing a three-year step increase freeze.
"This is a contract that serves both the teachers and the district," said Susan Agruso, outgoing superintendent of Kings Park schools, which has 282 teachers and 3,660 students. "It maintains benefits and salaries that are important to the teachers and it allows the district to address the financial constraints that were causing us to lose staff and programs."
Chris Philp, president of the Kings Park Classroom Teachers Association, described the new contract as "a fair deal" that preserves jobs and programs. "Any time you're talking about concessions . . . it's a hard conversation," he said.
The contract calls for no teacher salary increases from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2014. Salary increases of 1.75 percent, 1.5 percent and 1.75 percent will be implemented, respectively, for the next three years.
John Gross, a senior managing partner of the law firm Ingerman Smith, which represents more than 40 school districts across Long Island, including Kings Park, said, "I think this is the first time that there's been a three-year freeze on step increments . . . there's no question teachers sacrificed with this settlement to preserve programs and staff."
Savings from the step increase freeze will be used to restore four secondary-level teaching positions and an enrichment program, officials said.
The district's $83.56 million budget, approved in April, eliminated 10.6 teaching positions, including 4.7 positions cut due to declining enrollment.
Philp said the contract acknowledged teachers' greatest concerns by saving jobs, gaining flexibility on leave time by reallocating two sick days to personal days and avoiding an increase in the current 15 percent teacher contribution rate to health insurance. It also provides teachers with a larger say in professional development, he said.
The contract capped payouts for teachers who decline health insurance to about $8,600 and future payouts at $3,000, which increase along with insurance costs, said Agruso.
The contract created a new salary schedule for new teachers hired as of July 1, 2014, slowing the rate of pay as teachers accrue more education and experience. Teachers with a master's degree and 10 years of experience who are new to the district will be paid $73,583 -- a decrease from $84,285, records show. Laid-off teachers who return within seven years will be paid on the previous scale, per state law, said Philp.
Marie Goldstein, Kings Park school board president said in a written statement that the deal "represented a new era," and thanked the teachers "for their ongoing efforts at making Kings Park a great school district."