Katonah-Lewisboro's board of education unanimously passed a new contract with the district's teachers' union at a special meeting early Friday evening.
The deal with the Katonah-Lewisboro District Teachers' Association will run for three school years and be retroactive to July 1. The first school year, 2013-14, will have no increases for salaries and no increases for step increases (seniority based pay raises) or lanes (credential-based pay bumps). The lack of increases is something that school board President Charles Day called a "hard freeze." Instead, teachers will get a one-time $750 bonus.
For the second school year, in 2014-15, the freeze in wages will continue. However, teachers will be able to get half-step increases. A significant item is that beginning in this school year it will take 30 credits for teachers to get lane increases, versus nine previously. Lane movements will now only be possible every two years, versus an unlimited amount annually. During this school year, teachers who are at the top step and cannot advance further will get a bonus of $1,500.
For the final school year, which is 2015-16, wages will rise one percent and there will be another half-step increase.
Day, who explained that the deal was ratified already by the union membership, said there were “really, really good first steps."
Work, Day told Patch, started last November. While it did not lead to a new contract before the expiration of the previous one, an agreement was reached in May for teachers to switch to a more affordable health insurance plan and to a retirement incentives plan.
Day felt that discussion “really picked up over the summer."
With the agreement labor costs will be about $2 million, versus roughly $6 million if the district had been under the state's Triborough Amendment, which keeps expired deals' terms in place until new ones are reached.
Day also noted cooperation that was received from Sandy Grebinar, who is president of the union.
“We all share the mission of ensuring the high quality of a Katonah-Lewisboro education and being mindful of the plight of taxpayers. The new agreement creates the opportunity for sustaining and potentially expanding the high quality program offerings of the district,” Grebinar said in a press release from the district. “The definition of our success as teachers is driven by the success of our students and the satisfaction of community residents. We believe this agreement will continue to meet and advance these expectations.”
Sara Weale, who is co-founder of the group Forward Together KLSD, praised the agreement.
“Thank you to all of you who worked so hard to make it happen," she said. Weale's group, formed last winter, she stated, and it supports improving the budgeting situation for the school district.
“Well done, guys,” said Rory Burke, who has two children enrolled.
Burke also asked about how the new deal could affect the district's School Closure Task Force, which is looking at whether to close Lewisboro Elementary School amid a decline in enrollment.
“We're continuing with our work,” Day replied.
The deal will not change that consideration, according to Day, who disagrees with some parental sentiment that the savings from closing it, which is potentially $2,250,000 to $2,960,000 each year, is not much in the overall financial context.