Press-Republican

July 22, 2013

Ticonderoga restores cut teachers

By LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

---- — TICONDEROGA — With the help of instructional staff who agreed to reduce raises, Ticonderoga Central School District has reinstated 20 of 25 people cut or reduced in the new school budget.

The reworked union contracts give teachers a 6.1 percent pay increase for the next school year instead of the 9.8 percent they’d been scheduled to receive with the resumption of accumulated contractual raises that had been on hold for the last three years.

CONTRACTS REOPENED

Ticonderoga Superintendent John McDonald Jr. said instructional and support staff contracts were approved after the budget vote in May.

“Our staff and School Board have always worked together for the benefit of our kids and the school,” McDonald said.

“We appreciate their willingness to continue talking after the budget process was over.”

WIDESPREAD IMPACT

With a $540,000 budget gap, Ticonderoga School Board had pared 25 full- and part-time positions to bring the $18.5 million budget in under the state tax cap.

Some jobs were eliminated, while others went to 0.8 time or part time.

Almost every department at the school would have been impacted, including elimination of English and physical-education jobs and reductions in hours for guidance, home and careers, music, art, business, technology, English and math positions.

To keep most of those jobs, teachers will now get a 6.1 percent raise for 2013-14, 3.8 percent in 2014-15, 3.4 percent in 2015-16 and 3.8 percent in 2016-17.

The school support staff agreed to a contract with 3.5 percent raises the next academic year and 3 percent raises in each of the following three years.

The district still won’t replace four retirees from last year and a computer aide and teacher aide. Two teaching assistants will still be reduced to 0.8 time.

PREVIOUS FREEZES

The teacher contract was due to resume in the next school year, but teachers agreed to redo it and enter into a new four-year pact.

“We restructured the contract and spread the raises out a little more,” McDonald said.

“It (raises) looks like a high number, but they had two years of partial freezes and last year a full freeze. They were scheduled to go back to the contractual obligation.

“They had three consecutive years of givebacks and freezes,” he added. “That’s unprecedented in New York state.”

GOAL WAS STABILITY

Teachers Association President Richard Smith said teachers wanted to be sure the education provided for students wasn’t harmed.

“The Teachers Association members wanted to save jobs, help district taxpayers and stabilize future budgets,” he said by email.

“Our goal is to maintain our programs and personnel as best as possible. We feel this is a good contract for our members and the district. It gives us some stability for the next few years.

"We have a terrific school district and want to see that continue.”

LOOKING AHEAD

McDonald said things will be looking up for the district in the near future.

“We did a feasibly study for the next four years, using conservative revenue projections, and we’re going to be in good shape. It’s been a tough three years.”

The district is back at its previous levels, the superintendent said.

“We’ll be pretty much intact,” McDonald said. “I feel very good about this. Our kids will have all the programs they’ve had in the past.”

Email Lohr McKinstry: lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com