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'Win-win' deal for C. Islip teachers, district

Central Islip High School, located at 85 Wheeler

Central Islip High School, located at 85 Wheeler Road in Central Islip, serves 1,867 students in grades 9-12. (June 14, 2012) Credit: Brittany Wait

Teachers in the Central Islip school district agreed to contract changes last week that will restore 32 teaching positions over the next two years and likely bring back full-day kindergarten.

The school district -- like others in the area -- has been grappling with budget problems in the past few years as state aid has lagged and personnel costs have risen.

In fall 2010, the district went to half-day kindergarten to save money, making it one of the few districts in the state not to offer a full-day program. The district laid off about 170 employees, including 137 teachers, over the past two years.

Members of the Central Islip Teachers Association on Thursday approved a new agreement with the district that reduces scheduled raises and extends the contract for three years. The district also agreed not to lay off any association members before July 2017.

The district now expects to be able to return to offering full-day kindergarten starting in 2013-14.

"When one factors in what we got, it's amazing," said Fred Philips, the board of education president.

The teachers' contract was set to run through 2014-15. The agreement had called for teachers to receive a 3.6 percent raise each year, along with other scheduled increases.

Under the new agreement, a copy of which was not immediately available Saturday, teachers' salaries will be frozen next year. They will receive a 1.99 percent raise, plus scheduled step increases each year thereafter through 2017-18, when the extended contract ends, according to district and association officials.

"It's a win-win for everybody. We get the security," said Michael Romano, president of the union, which has about 465 members. "The district gets to reduce class size."

The changes are expected to save as much as $10 million over the next three years, Romano said.

As a result, the district will be able to restore 18 teaching positions in 2012-13 and another 14 the following year, according to Barbara LaMonica, a district spokeswoman.

"That's going to reduce class sizes significantly," LaMonica said.

The most overcrowded classes now have more than 40 students. The extra teachers should help drop those class sizes by as many as 10 students, she said.

Romano said the bulk of the restorations will be in the elementary schools.

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