Education

School Board: Mattituck civil service employees asking for 2 percent increase

Mattituck-Cutchogue School Board President Jerry Diffley put out a public challenge Thursday night to the district’s 95 non-teaching employees in the midst of negotiating a new contract, asking them to return to the bargaining table.
The union says it’s willing to talk, but only after the district makes a new wage offer.

Earlier this spring, the district’s Civil Service Employees Association proposed a four-year contract with zero percent pay increases the first and third years and 1 percent increases in the second and fourth years. The union has since withdrawn that request and is now seeking a two-year contract with 2 percent pay increases each year, Mr. Diffley said during the school board’s monthly meeting.

Mr. Diffley’s comments offered a rare public glimpse behind contract discussions, usually held in private. He said that the district’s negotiating team was disheartened after hearing of the union’s latest request, which came after a recent meeting with attorneys for both sides.

He reported that in exchange for the negligible salary increases, the union initially asked for a $500 bonus for 11 union members who had maxed out on salary step increases. After the district countered with an offer of a $250 bonus, the union made its latest contract request, Mr. Diffley said.

“We need to find out, if we bring that back to $500 will that get the job done?” he said. “They’re sticking with the 2 percent, at least in the short term. I hope we get a phone call soon that they’d like to sit down.”

But CSEA local president Sam Strickland said Monday that he believes the district should be calling the union, not the other way around.

“Let’s start from the top. CSEA is more than willing to take a year pay freeze if we have to,” he said. “They don’t want to offer anything. I just want a fair contract.”

Mr. Strickland said that the union, which represents some of the school’s lowest-paid workers, initially asked for a five-year contract with 4 percent increases each year, which he knew the district was unlikely to approve. He said the district then countered with a contract calling for two consecutive years of pay freezes, after which the union proposed the four-year contract with a pay freeze every other year.

He said he was very surprised that the district balked at what he believed was a serious concession on the union’s part.
“We’re willing to take a pay freeze, and we’re the lowest-paid people in the district,” he said.

Mr. Diffley said Thursday that while either side could declare an impasse at this point, sending the negotiations to mediation, “we’re hoping it doesn’t get to that. We’re anxious to continue to talk.”

Mr. Strickland said, however, that the union had already rejected the district’s most recent offer of a two-year contract with a one-year pay freeze and a one-year 1 percent increase, and, until he hears a new offer from the school, he’s sticking with the union’s proposal of a two-year contract with 2 percent raises each year.

“They can’t say the ball’s in our court,” he said.

The current CSEA contract expires at the end of this year. The district’s other union contract, with its 144-member teaching staff, is in place through 2014.

PRE-K ON THE WAY

Applications for universal pre-Kindergarten enrollment are now available at Cutchogue East Elementary School. The district will hold a lottery on Friday, June 17, to award 27 spots in the pre-K class to district residents. Superintendent Jim McKenna said the district usually receives between 35 and 40 applications. For more information, call 734-6086.

LOSING TEACHERS

At Thursday’s meeting, the board announced the layoff of elementary school teachers Dan Spitler, Jessica Tylee, Erin Riordan and Lisa Cooper and teaching assistants Kathy Hall and Susan Hubbard, due to budget constraints and declining enrollment. The district had not included their positions in the school’s 2011-12 budget, which voters approved on May 17. A part-time high school teaching position held by Albert Capolongo was also eliminated.

The teachers, except for Mr. Capolongo, will be placed on a preferred eligibility list for seven years, and the teaching assistants for five years, giving them first consideration when the district rehires.

The school board also approved tenure for industrial arts teacher Jason Wesnofske, elementary school special education teacher Leah Familette, elementary school teachers Dawn Rowe and Lisa Salvatore and secondary school special education teachers Mary Thomas and Christina Wilsberg.

REORGANIZATION CHANGE

The board rescheduled its July meeting and annual reorganization meeting to July 12 at 7:30 p.m. to permit Mattituck administrators to attend a conference in Canton, N.Y., on July 21.

At that meeting, parents and community members will discuss the school’s participation in the state program of “selection classification,” which allows junior high students to play high school sports. In the past, the district had always supported selection classification, but after controversy over the practice, the board decided last fall to re-evaluate the program annually, at each July reorganization meeting.

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