New Milford Board of Ed defends school calendar
Updated 12:37 pm, Wednesday, September 23, 2015
NEW MILFORD — The ongoing feud between the school district and the teachers union continued this week with the Board of Education releasing a statement defending this year’s school calendar.
The teacher’s union filed a grievance in June regarding 10 after-school meetings scheduled in the 2015-16 calendar beyond their work day. They are required to attend the meetings for no additional pay. The requirement is contrary to a November 2014 arbitration award in the CBA contract, which awarded the board six days of after-school meetings, the grievance claims.
“We are following the board’s directive while the grievance is proceeding, putting a burden on teachers, their families and ultimately students,” said Kim Patella, president of the New Milford Education Association.
Patella declined to comment on the grievance Tuesday until an arbitrator reaches a final settlement.
But the teachers union has been publicly vocal about its displeasure, leading to the education board issuing a statement this week in response.
“The board feels that the approximately 20 hours in increased student instructional time is not over-burdensome, nor is it disrespectful to teachers,” the statement reads. “The board complied in good faith with all legal requirements to negotiate the impact of its decision. In the end, the board prevailed.”
The arbitration panel awarded last November the Board of Education’s “last best offer” in the negotiation of “six evening meetings each school year for open house or similar programs.”
Board Chairwoman Angie Chastain said “in addition to the six evening events, 10 after-school days were scheduled in the arbitration award to cover items that were previously covered by the 14 early-dismissal days.”
Teachers received a 3.19 percent increase in salary for the next three years to compensate for this additional time, Chastain said.
“The board does not feel any disrespect toward the teachers,” Chastain said. “The teachers aren’t doing more work, they’re just having more student contact time. In addition to increasing student instructional hours, the board also sought to address the many parent complaints about half-days.”
The board contends the union knew from the beginning the 10 days would be required. The district eliminated early-dismissal days to increase total instructional time to be more in line with the state average, the board said.
“The fact that teachers instructional time was below that of both the other districts in its reference group and the state, while at the same time New Milford teachers were receiving very competitive salaries and salary increases in each year in the contract, constituted a fair resolution of the impact issue,” the statement reads.
To pay the 380 teachers in the union for the 20 additional hours worked would cost $380,000 a year in addition to their annual wage increases, according to the board.
The latest state Department of Education comparative data for school districts was in 2010-11. That study showed the New Milford school district provided 950 hours of total instruction time, while the state average was 1,000 hours.