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Merged school district would require new employee contracts

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CANTON - Consolidating Canton and Potsdam school districts would require negotiating new contracts for teachers, administrators and other staff members employed by merged district.

The process would involve finding common ground in areas like health insurance contributions, stipends and salary distribution, Roger D. Gorham, a consultant from Western Educational Council, Buffalo, said.

“If you form a new school district, you’ve basically got a new employer,” Mr. Gorham said.

Existing contracts for all employee groups would remain in place until new contract agreements are reached.

According to data collected by the consultants, the salary for a starting teacher at Canton Central is higher than at Potsdam Central. However, veteran teachers at Potsdam are paid more money than long-time Canton teachers.

“Generally speaking, the Canton salary schedule favors teachers at the beginning of their careers, while the opposite is true for Potsdam teachers,” Mr. Gorham said.

Teachers from both districts are paid based on a 28-step scale. Several other contract provisions are similar, such as the number of required work days and length of the work day.

“You’d have to negotiate how that total money gets distributed among the 28 steps,” Mr. Gorham told members of the Joint Advisory Committee during their last meeting.

Negotiations would also determine how stipends are paid to faculty members who supervise clubs and coach teams.

“While there are differences in the calculation and amounts of these stipends and salaries, collectively, the cost is minimal, and in our opinion, could be successfully negotiated,” the consultant report states.

Support staff in Canton are represented by four different bargaining units including groups for bus drivers, food service workers, secretaries and custodians. At Potsdam Central, all non-certified staff are represented by the Civil Service Employees Association.

Although many contract provisions are similar, “substantive” areas of negotiation would include the percentage of health care premiums paid by employees, the methods used to calculate various salaries, and the method used to account for bus drivers’ time.

Also, if a merger is approved, the new board of education has three choices for the superintendent’s position: the board could hire Canton Superintendent William A. Gregory, hire Potsdam Superintendent Patrick A. Brady or choose to hire another individual. In either case, a new contract would be negotiated with the selected individual.

Mr. Gorham said the new board would be obligated to honor the terms of the sitting superintendents’ contracts until the contracts expire or until the superintendents are employed elsewhere.

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