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Big Crowd Comes Out In Support Of Port Chester Teachers

Thursday's Board of Education meeting was packed; district, teachers are at impasse on contract negotiations.

If the impending school budget vote and the threat of cutting programs weren’t enough, the Port Chester-Rye Union Free School District and Port Chester Teachers Association now have an offer on the table for all the coffee and food they need until they end the and come to agreement on teacher contracts.

The offer was made Thursday night at the Board of Education’s meeting at the Port Chester Middle School by one of the 20-plus people who spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting. The man said if the head negotiators from each side locked themselves in a room, he’d provide all the coffee and food they wanted until they came out holding hands and agreeing on a deal.

Nobody seemed to take him up on the offer Thursday night. While no one else who spoke from the public made an offer to the board, plenty others pleaded to the board to get a deal done with the teachers.

“Just come back to the table and talk,” said Joan Thomas, of Port Chester, during the meeting. “We all have to take responsibility.”

The auditorium at the middle school was packed, with many standing in the back of the room. Before the meeting started, more than 100 people showed up early and stood in the parking lot, holding up signs urging unity between the parents and teachers. Right before the meeting, the marched into the auditorium led by children and parents.

“The advice I have for all of us is to stay positive and to focus on the welfare of the children we serve,” said Bob Johnson, a member of the school board, who added he has experience on both sides of the negotiating table.

The big crowd wasn’t there just for the teachers contracts, however. They were also there because the board recently announced in its proposed budget for next year makes cuts to the reading assistance program, which would put up to 14 teachers who provide help out of class to students struggling reading throughout the district out of work. The proposed cuts come after the March 8th meeting, when it looked the district was going to end full-day kindergarten to try and rid the $2.1 million budget deficit, but a series of events led the board to change its decision and it will still offer full-day kindergarten next year.

While cutting the reading program would save jobs compared to cutting full-day kindergarten, many who spoke at the meeting felt that cutting the reading program would have dire effects on the district and its students.

“A child able to read properly will be able to handle anything that comes his or her way,” said Francis Payne, president of the John F. Kennedy Magnet School PTA.

Payne added that it should be the district and teachers that make concessions.

“We can’t afford to take more and more away from our children,” he said.

Even a few current elementary school students got up to speak, including one from JFK, who said the school taught him to love learning. He also asked the board not to cut the reading program.

“I thought you were supposed to help the kids, because if you are, now would be a good time to start,” he said.

Claudia Vasquez, of Port Chester, said reading is used for all subjects, and taking it away won’t only affect the students in reading classes. She said they need to be able to properly read for word problems in math, essays in social studies and labs in science.

Schools Superintendent Edward A. Kliszus said one thing he felt many who spoke misunderstood is that they aren’t cutting the reading program.

“Everyone teaches English, reading and comprehension,” he said. “That’s done in every subject area.”

He added that the program in that is cut in the proposed budget deals with reading assistance, but that reading itself would remain in the curriculum.

“Language is the core of all disciplines, language, reading and reading comprehension,” he said. “That’s why every subject area is taught with reading.”

Kliszus added that another reason the change was made in the proposed budget was that if they cut the kindergarten, they would lose the rental space.

“We could not return kindergarten for perhaps six, seven, even longer years because there’s no space, whereas auxiliary programs, on ancillary or pullout programs, like reading, could easily be restored should funding come its way back to the district,” he said. “So that was the main issue.”

Johnson, who was voted onto the board last May, is a teacher in Stamford and said he empathizes with what the teachers are currently going through. He also added that while they can hope for state aide, they must “act in the real world” and think about longterm issues, not just getting next year’s budget in order.

“I did not run for a seat on this board to oversee the dismantling of our school district. I did not run to sit here and preside over layoffs and program cuts. I did not run for this seat to do harm to our children’s education,” he said. “I ran in order to oversee continuous improvement. We are parents, all of us here on the board. Two of us are working teachers. We don’t want this. I think that my colleagues will agree that I speak for all the members of this board, we do not want these cuts.”

PC Lover March 30, 2012 at 06:49 PM
JC, I guess great minds think alike. It's the comments that get my juices flowing so I tend to reply to them and then go off on my own tangent. It's funny that you would complain to me for commenting on someone's post which is exactly what you are doing to me. Incidentally, I do agree with your post. The teachers union needs to come to the table and you are doing a great job of saying it like it is, loud and clear. We can't get by just on beautiful buildings anymore!
PC Lover March 30, 2012 at 06:54 PM
PC Needs Change....AMEN! I am a parent of a Port Chester student too. I want reading, music, sports, art, and everything else our wealthy neighbors have for their kids...just like you do.
Keith Morlino March 30, 2012 at 08:31 PM
I believe the board of education is doing the best they can under the circumstances. This is a complex issue that I am just trying to get a handle on now. That being said and only understanding what I have been recently reading I believe the absolute last "cuts" that should be made are the teachers right up to paying the heat and electric bill. I understand there is an infrastructure that needs to be maintained and extra curricular activities are important but teachers should be taboo. Am I naive in this respect??? Any chance of volunteers or retired teachers working part time to assist ? or how about sub contracting payroll expenses ? And lastly, the point that was made by Tom last night did hit home for me except I would not pay for the food let them negotiate then we feed them !
PC Lover March 30, 2012 at 08:54 PM
If Tom feeds them food from the PCMS cafeteria they may croak before they strike a deal...that food'll kill them!
b March 30, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Teachers need to do their jobs and be the best they can be. Give them Performance Appraisals like the real world.
PC Needs Change March 31, 2012 at 12:34 AM
@b could not agree more. Tenure is something that needs to go bye bye. And they should then get raises based on those appraisals, just like the rest of us.
Juan Jose Chajon March 31, 2012 at 12:34 AM
I just finished watching the video from last nights Board meeting and I would like to say to those who think that we are against our teachers, that we are not. We are against the decision taken by the teachers Union for not allowing their members to vote. We actually are fighting to keep the jobs of many of our teachers, so they can do what they do best; that's teaching. We know the hard work they have in front of them, I have to be concern for two children's education, while teachers are concern everyday with 20 to 25 children's education. For that reason, the support of the reading teachers is fundamental for the children's success. However, the circumstances have changed, no funds and that's the reality of today .
JJ March 31, 2012 at 12:46 AM
THE TEACHERS ARE GREAT BUT THE WELL IS DRY HELP.............!!!!!!!!!!!! WHO DOESN'T UNDERSTAND THAT??????????????? THE UNION.
PCgal123 March 31, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Can someone explain to me what the hold up is? Why won't the teachers' union settle? I went to the meeting on Thursday night because I had to find out what was going on with the school budget for next year. I understand reading specialists are being cut and the other teaching positions, ELC and full day Kindergarten have been restored. The other two unions have reached agreements with the district. Why can't the teachers? They see that their colleagues are in the process of being sent to the unemployment lines - why won't they save them? The taxpayer should not fund these positions. The other two unions have bent over backwards to save their own, now is the teacher union's turn. School Board and District listen up - I will vote NO on the budget if you cave in to the teachers' demands. It is their turn to save their peers and agree to what is being proposed - 1% salary (it's not even a freeze!!) and one health plan - they have to follow the steps of the other two unions.
Aidan March 31, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Juan, the union position is based on THEIR logic. Unions are ignoring the economic storm ... hoping for a return to settlements that stood at odds with the actual inflation. Those days are gone forever or at least they should be. This great moan that teachers are underpaid is a canard. These are handsomely compensated positions ... in fact, many far exceed the sort of compensation arrangement one would find in the private sector. The private sector has seen the economic environment undergo a mighty over-haul. Salaries increases have just about dried up. Same with benefit packages. Yet the demand on those workers continue to increase as well. Many, many folks are just happy to have a position ... even a tenuous one. But the teachers' union is insistent that they reside in a world beyond this reality. That their efforts are more noble and more important ... and so deserve a sort of exemption from reality. They forget that funding comes out of the pockets of those who toil in the world of reality. And that reality is hard ... and getting harder. Sacrifice isn't a one-way street. They are calling the BOE's bluff ... to axe those teachers . They KNOW that'll rile parents and set off a nasty, disturbing clash between punished taxpayers and concerned parents of school-age youngsters. And the union? They'll sit on the sidelines mutely and let their "divide and conquer" strategy mask their unwillingness to serve those who employ them. Next year will be deja vu all over again.
Aidan March 31, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Here's some alarming information ... considering the union's position. These are the contractual increases for the just-expired contract: 2006 ... 3.5% 2007 ... 3.5% 2008 ... 3.6% 2009 ... 3.7% 2010 ... 3.7% Over a five year period that amounts to a non-compounded raise of EIGHTEEN PERCENT! And NOT included are the "step" increases in the salary schedule ... which add AT LEAST another thousand PER YEAR to a teacher's salary. And a consistent increase per teacher to the Teacher Welfare Fund EACH YEAR! These are contractual figures. Now ... contrast these figures with your reality. Are taxpayers being unreasonable at all? Download the contract yourself ... http://seethroughny.net/index.php?cID=169
PC Lover March 31, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Holy Cow! Where do I sign up for such lucrative increases? I haven't had a raise in 3 years and I pay more and more for my contribution to health insurance! I read the contract and it is shocking! I hope the Patch and others write articles and copy and paste page 40 of the most recent (expired) contract for all to see. I guess it's tough to watch the end of an era but those days are over. Wake up and smell the reality, Teachers Union! How about it, Mr. Demarest? See page 40 of the contract and splay this bad boy wide open for all to see! http://seethroughny.net/index.php?cID=169 If anyone in the private sector has this kind of contractual increase or benefit package please weigh in and let us know. I doubt it exists!
Aidan March 31, 2012 at 11:29 PM
Juan and JC ... this is all public information. And I might add that I was EXTREMELY conservative in my statements regarding raises. I COULD HAVE expounded on the salary step component ... and that would probably have brought the total increase to AT LEAST 25% over the life of the last contract ... probably a lot more. The Westmore News is a top-notch local publication. If you've got the well-being of the community in mind ... and your facts straight ... they'll give you print space. They are a very fair crowd. Juan visit the website I published ... takes a bit of work, but you'll follow the issue of compensation there. The public needs to know the facts ... not the perception about salaries and the salary schedule. this goes way beyond the issue of a contract ... this deals with the entire structure of compensation ... which most people outside the profession are clueless about. PC ... didn't mean to shock your socks off. You're probably not alone.
Fed Up April 01, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Let's compound the salary increases previously mentioned because they actually do get compounded. Below are the salaries in dollars that teachers would have progressed to in each year starting at $80k, $90k and $100k. The total raise over this 5 year period was 19.3%!!! (and that does not include any other types of raises like steps or lane changes) $80,000 $90,000 $100,000 2006 3.5% $82,800 $93,150 $103,500 2007 3.5% $85,698 $96,410 $107,123 2008 3.6% $88,783 $99,881 $110,979 2009 3.7% $92,068 $103,577 $115,085 2010 3.7% $95,475 $107,409 $119,343 5 Year Total 19.3% My salary has increased 3.7% TOTAL during this 5 year period due to economic conditions. The teachers need to share this reality and accept the offer being made. If they don't it's a slap in the face to the children, the taxpayers and the teachers on the chopping block. You want to cry for the children teachers? . . . then concede to the deal and save the reading teachers. Demand for your union leaders to put this offer to a vote. This smells of union leaders just wanting to save face and not wanting to be the ones who "caved in". But you can't think of it that way because agreeing to this deal isn't a "loss" for the union, it's a WIN to the children who need the reading teachers, a WIN to the teachers who would have to do the work of the lost reading teachers and a WIN to the teachers whose jobs will be saved.
Blogger April 01, 2012 at 03:45 AM
@Aidan - good display of information. @Fed Up - I agree with you but I am beginning to think that the majority of teachers don't really give a hoot about the reading teachers. If they did, they would be jumping up and down trying to save them. So far, the parents and even some students are jumping up and down, but the teachers are sitting back. The reading teachers should organize their own mini-revolt against their union. The reading teachers have nothing to lose and everything to gain in pressuring their colleagues to save them. The reading teachers paid their union dues - to what end?
luis April 01, 2012 at 07:28 PM
i do think we should remember that negotiations entail TWO parties that need to agree. Unsure why it is assumed that it is the PCTA alwasy holding things up. health care and raises are two big things to work out, but who is to say that these are the two things slowing things down? Maybe most of the union already understands the concessions that need to be made? maybe it's the "small" stuff holding things up, like maintaining equal class sizes throughout the district or safe working environments, who knows. At the end of the day, what has been leaked out to the press has been purposeful, in my opinion, when such negotations should be confidential. we say we value our teachers, but are we respecting them? so much damage has been done, not because the discussion of salaries, etc., but the portrayal that they are selfish, hypocrites, being led blindly by the union. PC will lose amazing teachers just for this alone, this lack of respect, not becasue they are fired nec. but as much as they love the kids, there is a point where you start to wonder, at what expense to their self worth and professional dignity. Pc, you want those cheap, young teachers, that might be just what we have at the end, teachers coming in, lasting 2 or three years and then heading out to bigger and better things. It sounds like our struggling neighbors in yonkers and mt. vernon...
Aidan April 01, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Luis, you make a lot of assumptions yourself. Teaching jobs ... particularly in the suburbs ... are premium positions. Suggesting that PC teachers will just up and leave is ludicrous. Where are they to go? Mobility is unusual in tough times, and more unusual in the educational world. That said ... I also take exception to any suggestion that by questioning the motives of the union is some sort of poor behavior. These employees work for the public. They draw their salaries from us ... the taxpayers. We have every right to question circumstances beyond the issue of the children. No one is anti-education ... not in this town. But funding a public system cannot become a choice between living life and funding a system that wallops those who pay the tab. The salary information speaks for itself. These are premiere positions by almost any standard. Excellent salaries and benefits and very cheeky working conditions. Much of the funding public is now feeling abused and taken for granted. The union needs to respond not only to the board but to those who fund the schools. That's is not an unreasonable request in rugged times. Public schools cannot be the sapping entities they've become. There are limits ... and they've been reached.
Blogger April 02, 2012 at 12:58 AM
@luis - Mt. Vernon and Yonkers are devoid of teachers these days, due to budget cuts. Odd that you would say they are the training grounds of young teachers. To have young teachers, a district has to be hiring. Mt. Vernon and Yonkers have slashed programs and laid teachers off in droves. This is a tough time to be a teacher. The job market is bleak. There are lots of certified teachers out there subbing and working at Home Depot or doing whatever they can do to pay their bills until they can get into the system. I rather feel sorry for young teachers today - jobs are scarce. And no matter how poor the work environment is in Port Chester schools, I am betting there would be a line out the door for any openings in the district. This is true of a lot of jobs outside of education as well.
Reality4PC! April 02, 2012 at 01:23 AM
@luis, everybody is replaceable. Those "cheap, young teachers,..." as you describe them, just graduated from college with the bachelors or masters ready to teach and open new doors to our students. I welcome them wholeheartedly.
PC Lover April 02, 2012 at 03:58 AM
Luis, I would bet the ranch that not one PC teacher will quit...although it might not be a bad thing. It seems they would happily sacrifice their own before giving an inch, so why would you think any of them would give up such a sweet gig with nice yearly raises and tasty benefits like 3 choices of insurance, tenure AND pension galore? If you are not a teacher, tell us, do you get those guarantees and perks on your job? With all due respect, you should stop drinking the PCTA Kool-Aid.
George Datino April 02, 2012 at 11:33 AM
I understand the Union's position up to this point in not negotiating down their current situation. The expired contract offers much better compensation than anything they will get and why move away from it when there was a chance that Albany would come up with the money. I am not going to begrudge someone from making more money. Unfortunately, Albany (which by the way is run by the State Teacher's Union) has spoken and we will have to make due with pretty much what we were promised earlier. So it is time to get into the room and come up with a deal. The teachers can handle a little bad press. As I am sure they have their own bills to pay, they can understand that people don't have any more money to give. I am sure they have their own school taxes to pay where they live. As I stated in a previous post, 1 out of every 4 paychecks I receive goes to paying my School Tax Bill and I am sure everyone else who has to pay this bill is in a similar situation. 2 out of 3 of my children have come through the PCSD (my youngest is graduating in June) and I have come to know many of the teachers. As with all professions, there are some real good ones, some average ones, and some real bad ones. But they are all adults and can handle what is being said here. Of course, unless they start believing the propaganda that what they do is such a nobel cause that we should all simply bow down and give them what they want and want to leave, don't let he door hit you in the .. (well, you know).
Keith Morlino April 02, 2012 at 02:26 PM
I understand the contract negotiations are kept "private". Is there a reason why the contract negotiations are not held in a public forum ? or at the very least, recorded minutes published? As a taxpayer, I think we have that right to know the specifics?
Aidan April 02, 2012 at 09:54 PM
george D writes: "As I stated in a previous post, 1 out of every 4 paychecks I receive goes to paying my School Tax Bill and I am sure everyone else who has to pay this bill is in a similar situation." You cannot scrub this situation than what that statement implies. The implication o for George ... and many, many others ... is that the school funding has become a crushing burden in Port Chester. Something has to give ... and until now it's been the taxpayers. The previous contract basically gave away the store. Glorious increases year-over -year ... untouched benefits and perks. Folks were shocked to see those numbers. And since those raises are forever in the salary equation, well, then pain is going to be forever in the taxpayers' wallets. Time for everyone ... the Board, the union, and parents of all description ... to face the one ounce of realism that is obvious: This cannot continue. The well is dry. It's over. Done. There is no more to give.
George Datino April 03, 2012 at 10:48 AM
Does anyone know if there are any time limitations built into the The Triborough Amendment which is currently keeping the terms of the expired teachers contract in place? I am just wondering if there are any timetables built into it?
Aidan April 03, 2012 at 02:37 PM
NONE. Th expired contract terms remain in force until a new agreement is reached. Salaries are frozen, but not step increases if they are still a part of a teacher's compensation. All old work rules ... class loads, arrival and quitting times, etc ... also remain in effect. Transfers and re-assignments can be made, but for the most part, matters just continue on until a new contract emerges. Undoing elements of the expired contract is rough stuff. That's the knuckle time. However, most new agreements following a prolonged contract negotiations almost always include retro-active elements. Not always, but usually. That means that the teachers almost always get their money ... just not as timely as they would have liked. I think this always disadvantages the BOE in their negotiations. There's little at stake for the unions other than perhaps deferred raises ... unless serious contract alterations are resolved.
Aidan April 03, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Keith ... the just expired PC teachers' contract is available at this site ... http://seethroughny.net/
PC Lover April 03, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Scary times here in PC. I've seen quite a few PC BOE budgets with controversy but never this level of anger, frustration, fear, and contention. We need massive change. Clearly, we are already seeing the dung hit the fan. Eventually there will be "blood in the streets"...it's just a question of whose....
George Datino April 03, 2012 at 05:55 PM
" Undoing elements of the expired contract is rough stuff. That's the knuckle time.". I guess Labor Contracts are different then the contracts I am used to dealing with. I am used to contracts with a begin date and an end date. Once that end date comes around, the contract is over and neither side has any obligations under the terms of the contract unless specified in some sort of contract extension. Though terms from one contract to another may be similar, there is nothing that is etched in stone that something I receive in one contract is there forever and I should expect it in another contract. Many a time I have had things change in a contract from one to another. I think this practice or I seen in another post that this would be called a concession is what makes these things tough to negotiate. If it wasn't looked at one side or another giving in and just part of the negotiation of starting a new contract, maybe it would be easier to make headway.
George Datino April 04, 2012 at 11:45 AM
The fear of being driven out our homes is feeding the anger and frustration amongst the average taxpayer in this community. The contention is going to escalate far beyond this upcoming school budget. I guess starting with the Federal Government, to the State and County, all the way down to the local municpal governments and school districts, the local taxpayer feels they are being taken advantage of. With stories of corruption and waste, the local taxpayer simply can't pay anymore. Anythng more will simply throw them over the edge. The problem is that it isn't just one issue causing the problem and with that, no one level of accountability. Now we seem to be looking at the Teacher's contract and that is to blame for all the problems. This is great news for the local BOTs, since our attention is now drawn away from all the corruption and greed that has led to the vast overcrowding issue. They are happy because when there is a call for higher fines and punitive measures against these criminals, you can hear the crickets. Of course, our state government representatives continue to dole out mandates but refuse to pay for them. They don't want to pay for them from their budgets because they don't want to claim to raise taxes. They just throw it down to the locals, they can raise your taxes. They all need money and votes to get re-elected. What goes into that is what drives their decisions and has gotten us in the mess we are in now. That is where the real frustration starts.
Aidan April 04, 2012 at 11:59 PM
"The fear of being driven out our homes is feeding the anger and frustration amongst the average taxpayer in this community. The contention is going to escalate far beyond this upcoming school budget." That's it in a nutshell. Mr. Datino's statement is an expression of genuine fear ... fear that taxes, local and beyond, will rip people from their homes or reek havoc on even the best laid financial plans. Hard-working, middle class folks are facing rugged decisions everywhere they turn. They're juggling their personal budgets and they see the stark and scary decisions now and down the road. It's simple stuff. We are over-taxed and we over-spend. Nearly every household in the village understands this ... but SOME of those in positions of authority (school board or village leaders) misread (or ignore!) the pulse. Everyone wants great schools and great services. But those have to be achieved at a cost that is reasonable. And "reasonableness" has eluded lots of folks who draw their livelihoods from the public trough. There is real pain here. And soon that might morph into real anger ... and no one wants to see that day. But we will unless we upend the status quo. It's now ... or it's tomorrow. Punch your ticket.

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