F.U.S.E. News & Updates June 9, 2014

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F.U.S.E. News & Updates June 9, 2014

Superintendent Search – Completed!

A couple of weeks ago, I noted that the announcement naming the new Superintendent of Schools was an “unfinished piece of business” that needed to be taken care of before the close of the school year. This Monday, the Board of Education revealed that they had selected Dr. Brian Osborne will be our new Superintendent of Schools.
Dr. Osborne is currently the Superintendent of Schools in the South Orange-Maplewood School District in New Jersey, a position he has held since 2007. The appointment will be effective July 1. Dr. Osborne will begin his transition into the District at that time and will be fully available starting August 1.

In the district’s press release announcing the appointment, Board President David Lacher stated: “Dr. Osborne is an exceptional educational leader. We have no doubt he will foster a new era of inclusion and community in our District and drive the kind of challenging educational programs we have come to expect. Dr. Osborne’s vision, innovative thinking, and deep commitment to classroom rigor reflect his belief in achievement for all students.”

Prior to his tenure as Superintendent at the South Orange-Maplewood schools, Osborne was Chief of Staff, Teaching and Learning at the New York City Department of Education (2004-2007). His previous positions include New York City Department of Education Director of Instructional Technology; Plainfield, New Jersey Public Schools Supervisor of Evaluation, Assessment and Research and Special Assistant to the Superintendent; Co-Founder of New School for Arts and Sciences in the Bronx; and fifth grade Spanish bilingual teacher at Public School 28M in Washington Heights.

Osborne holds doctoral (2011) and master’s (2001) degrees in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy from Harvard Graduate School of Education, as well as a Master of Arts degree in Teaching, (Mathematics -2000), from New York University. He obtained his bachelor’s degree with high honors in Philosophy and Religion from Colgate University (1991) I am sure that all of our members join me in wishing Dr. Osborne much success as he begins his new role in New Rochelle.

School Board Meeting – June 3rd

Last Tuesday, the School Board met at City Hall with a very full agenda – too full to be honest! The Board introduced Dr. Brian Osborne to the community and offered him the opportunity to make some brief introductory remarks, held a “public hearing” on the District’s “Safety Plan’ prior to re-authorizing it next month, voted on a number of resolutions, listened to over 10 members of the public share concerns and perspectives during a lengthy “public comment” portion of the meeting, and, finally, honored our retirees with words of gratitude and congratulations followed by a short reception.

Sadly, the result of the full agenda and lengthy “public comment” resulted in our retirees, their families and friends waiting for over an hour till the Board got to the part of the meeting where their many contributions and years of dedication were acknowledged. This left many retirees disappointed and frustrated. Unfortunately our SRP retirees were not even notified of the event and did not receive an invitation.

To be fair, of course, it should be noted that the Board’s intention – to honor our retirees and recognize publically (sic) their years of service and dedication – was good and right. At the time the event was scheduled, members of the Board and the district’s administration could not have known that it would also be introducing the new Superintendent to the public. Additionally, the Board and administration could not have predicted how many citizens would choose to speak during the “public comment” portion of the meeting.

I have communicated with Board members and the district administration, letting them know of our colleagues’ disappointment in how the evening turned out, and they too felt the frustration and unhappiness of our retirees. Going forward, every effort will be made next year to make sure that the celebration for our members takes priority once it is scheduled, and that it will not be delayed by an overly ambitious agenda or a lengthy public comment session.

Finally, despite its shortcomings, many of the retirees did express gratitude for the effort, if not the execution, of the evening’s recognition. The heartfelt words offered by Assistant to the Superintendent Joe Williams, who thanked them for their years of service and added that “it just won’t be the same” without them in their classrooms, teaching and guiding our students next year, was for many of our retirees, the highlight of the evening.

Contract Negotiations

The FUSE and the school district are entering a critical period in our negotiations. Both sides are well aware that the “clock is ticking” and if there is to be an agreement in place when our current contract expires, negotiations must be concluded in the next two weeks.

As most FUSE members know, our union’s By-Laws require that “the membership of the FUSE shall have information of the proposed new contract at least five (5) working days prior to the ratification of said contract” In practical terms that means that both sides must reach an agreement and the information regarding the proposed contract must be made known to our members no later than June 20 if we are to have a ratification vote prior to the end of the school year on June 27.

Contract talks have been taking place on a regular basis for the past few weeks, and it is still very possible that we will have a proposal to present to members within the timeframe noted above.

Nonetheless, there is always a possibility that the two sides will not reach an agreement in time for members to vote before the close of the school year. In that case, the terms and conditions of our current agreement would remain in force until a new contract is ratified by our members and by the Board of Education. Members’ salaries, benefits and working conditions would be unchanged, however members entitled to move up on the salary schedules or to salary differentials such as “MA+30” would receive those increases.

The prohibition against allowing the employer to unilaterally change contracts once the contract has ended is spelled out in the “Triborough Amendment” to the state’s Taylor Law. This amendment, enacted in 1982, has leveled the bargaining playing field and stops public employers from reducing salary and benefits — including crucial health care benefits — while a union is negotiating for a new contract.

The most often asked question about negotiations is about salary increases. To give members an insight into the environment in which the union is negotiating our contract, I have shared some of the data detailing the salary increases other locals have agreed to in our region. Besides “insight,” I hope this information helps members to manage their expectations about what our proposed settlement might look like.

At the risk of repeating myself, again, members should know that most recently settled contracts are multi-year agreements which contain at least one year of no ATB raises or no “salary step advancement.” This includes districts which, like New Rochelle, had already had one or two years of 0% ATB raises in the recent past. Some districts have deferred step advancement from September to either the middle or end of the year. Others have agreed to accept a set dollar amount in lieu of an ATB based on a percentage of salary.

For example, just a couple of months ago, Pelham agreed to a two year contract with no step increases in year one, (2014-2015), and a $1250 non-recurring (does not become part of the base salary) for each members. In year two, (2015 -2016), teachers in Pelham receive a 1% across-the-board raise and regular step increments.

In Eastchester, members have been without a contract since June, 2013. They recently settled a four year agreement (including the current 2013-2014) school year. There are no across-the-board raises in any of the years of that contract. In years two and three of the agreement (2012-2015, 2015-2016), teachers receive one half of their applicable step increment. In year four (2016-2017), teachers receive a full step increment.

Right now, in order to come to some kind of agreement that is in our members’ best interests, our efforts seem to be focused on crafting a one-year deal, and returning to the bargaining table next year to negotiate a traditional multi-year agreement. As I mentioned last week, many of the proposals put forward by the FUSE regarding working conditions and other “non-financial” items might have to be put aside in order to focus on the larger – and more challenging – issues of compensation and benefits.

Because of the unique structure of our salary schedule’s “step increases,” our negotiations team has made preserving step increases for members who are counting on those increases a priority. While obtaining a modest “across the board” salary increase is still something the union is seeking for our members, we will not allow agree to any contract that uses “step increases” to pay for it.

Our negotiations team will be meeting with the district on Thursday to continue contract talks with the school district.

Take Action – NYSUT Members’ Action Center

NYSUT “Members’ Action Center” is a great way to let our state legislators know what is on our mind, and to encourage them to take a stand on issues that affect public education, public employees and labor unions.
Go to the site to find advocacy letters on the need to reform APPR and the undemocratic tax cap law. We also are pushing to expand the moratorium on the use of standardized tests in high-stakes decisions that was established for students to include teachers and principals. https://mac.nysut.org/ or just go to NYSUT.org and click on the link to MAC. Take action today!

Reminder: Email Address Request

Earlier this year, members received an email from Matthew Reid, FUSE secretary, requesting that they send him a “personal” email in order that the union can communicate with its members outside of the school based email system. If you have not yet responded to Matthew, please do so soon!
To be included in this database, please email Matthew at mreid@nrfuse.com and include the following information:

• Your First AND Last name,
• Your job title and building assignment (for example, math teacher at ALMS, elementary teacher at Jefferson, or secretary at NRHS).
• A PERSONAL email address

If you don't have a personal email address, or if you want to use one that is separate from the one you use with family and friends, you can create an address for this purpose.  All Internet providers (Cablevision/Optimum, Time Warner, Fios, Comcast, etc.) will provide multiple addresses for free, as will gmail, AOL, and Yahoo.
 
Please know that this database will only be used by the FUSE office for FUSE communications.  We will not share these addresses with anyone outside of the FUSE office.

In addition, members may choose to communicate with me by writing to mdaly@nrfuse.com rather than at the “nred.org” address. Most other officers of the union also have an “nrfuse.com” address as well. You can also follow me on twitter @marty10707.

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