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Massena Central School District reaches agreement with support staff

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MASSENA - The Massena Central School District and its support staff have a new five-year contract, meaning negotiations are now over between the district and all of its unions.

Members of the Massena Confederated School Employees’ Association, which includes about 120 clerical, teacher aides, nurses, food service, bus drivers, cleaners, custodians and maintenance workers, ratified the new contract on Wednesday. It had been approved by the district’s board of education last week.

“All the contracts are settled. Now we can focus on what we’re supposed to be doing with kids and education,” Superintendent Roger B. Clough II said Thursday.

Under the terms of the contract, MCSEA members will receive a 3.75 percent salary increase each year for five years. It also caps health care contributions at $600 per year and includes a $1,200 signing bonus.

The district’s 2010-11 health insurance rates were $6,660 per individual, $13,320 per two-person plan and $17,352 for each family plan, they said.

In 2011-12, those rates climbed to $7,104 per individual, $14,208 for each two-person plan and $18,432 for each family plan.

“The Massena Confederated School Employees Association voted to ratify the contract. It is a very good contract and we thank the board of education and the superintendent for their work, and I would like to personally thank our negotiating team. We look forward to a positive five years,” MCSEA President David Page said.

Board of education members had originally been asked to approve the MCSEA contract in June, but failed to do so, putting both sides back at the negotiating table.

Board members William Sommerfield, Michael LeBire and Ronald Faucher, along with former board member Cristen Halladay, had opposed the contract, which would have run from 2012 to 2017. Voting yes in June were Kevin Perretta, Patrick Bronchetti and former board member Gregory Fregoe. Leonard Matthews was absent, and John Boyce was not present for the vote.

A week later, the board of education held a special meeting and invited representatives of the MCSEA into executive session to meet with them. However, no official action was taken on the contract during that session either.

Retired Assistant Superintendent for Business Cynthia M. Yager had asked board members in a letter not to approve the MCSEA contract, which she called “financially irresponsible.”

“Our support staff deserves a good contract, in fact they probably deserve much more than the proposal on the agenda tonight,” she wrote. “However, the proposed contract, in my opinion, is financially irresponsible. When the last long-range plan and the ‘12-13 budget were developed, the directive from the board finance committee was lower than the cost of this proposed contract. To pay for this contract, the school district will have to cut educational programs, reduce staff, outsource jobs and/or live with financial turmoil.”

Ms. Yager, who retired in July, had said in her letter that the cutting of an account clerk and transfer of the position to the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services “is the harbinger of what the future could be for this union. The salary cost savings was over $10,000.

This support staff contract, as presented, would widen the cost differential of using BOCES’ services and would further support outsourcing these job functions in the future to the detriment of our community, she said at the time.

“I urge the board to reflect on these facts and am confident the board will want to go back to the bargaining table and present a fair financial package that would be a ‘win, win’ for everyone,” she wrote.

After heading back to negotiations following June’s defeat by the board, both sides were able to come to an amicable agreement, according to Mr. Clough.

“I think the district and the board felt it was fair. If you look around the state, I think we were very fair,” he said. “The support staff took a (pay) freeze for us last year. I think the board remembered and appreciated that.”

Members of the MCSEA joined the Massena Building Administrator’s Association in 2011 in voting affirmatively to freeze their pay for the 2011-12 school year to help close a shortfall in the 2011-12 budget.

The MCSEA agreement follows the Aug. 28 ratification of an administrator’s contract by the Massena Building Administrator’s Association, represents 14 principals, assistant principals and directors.

The administrator contract includes a 4 percent retroactive salary increase, a 3.75 percent salary increase each year for three years, sets employee health care contributions at 5 percent for years one and two and 10 percent in year 3, $75 monthly toward personal cell phones used for school business and a $1,000 signing bonus.

The health insurance contribution applies to employees who were on board prior to July 1. New personnel who were hired after July 1 have a 15 percent contribution, according to President Allen W. Rowledge.

In addition to the five-year contract with the support staff and three-year contract with the administrator’s association, Mr. Clough said two years also remain on their contract with the Massena Federation of Teachers. That was ratified in December.

Massena Federation of Teachers members will contribute a total of $524,434 to their health care premiums over the length of their new three-year contract with the district under the terms of the contract.

They agreed to a 5 percent health insurance premium contribution in 2012-13 and a 10 percent health insurance premium contribution in 2013-14.

MFT members who are retiring in 2012-13 will also contribute 5 percent to health insurance premium costs. Those who are retiring in 2013-14 will contribute 10 percent to the health insurance premium cost.

The contract also called for salary increases for MFT members, of 2 percent in 2012-13 and 2.5 percent in 2013-14.

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