09/26/13 8:00am
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Riverhead school board members at Tuesday night's meeting.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Riverhead school board members at Tuesday night’s meeting.

It’s beyond positive news that the Riverhead School District and its teachers finally get to put labor negotiations behind them.

Teachers, administrators and school board members can now move on to what at times may seem like insurmountable challenges under the new Common Core initiative: its corresponding curriculum changes and state testing components, as well as the implementation of teacher evaluation programs.

All this, while operating under the state’s year-to-year tax levy cap.

But we at the News-Review would be remiss if we did not take a moment to recognize a job well done by all parties involved in hammering out a labor deal that’s fair to both teachers and taxpayers. It’s a deal that will help the district operate under the tax cap without having to keep shedding staff while still offering modest annual pay increases to recognize the hard work of Riverhead educators.

The teachers union, which holds much leverage in the collective bargaining process, could have exercised more of its lawful power in scratching for higher and higher pay for its members. But other factors played a role, factors beyond individual household incomes for union members.

Aside from the negotiating work on the district’s side, it seems apparent that teachers understood the state of our current economy and the tax cap — in short, that people are hurting and higher wages would necessitate reductions in services. And Riverhead teachers (and students) have been benefitting from the investment and sacrifices communities across the district have made — despite an uncertain economy — in approving a $78.3 million school bond for infrastructure upgrades in the schools. The teachers’ work spaces are larger, more modern and more pleasant. And they have local taxpayers to thank.

And we believe that thank-you, in part, has come in the form of agreeing to a fair compensation deal during a tough, stressful time in our schools.

08/24/2013 12:00 PM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | A case of whooping cough was confirmed at Shoreham-Wading River High School last Thursday.

FILE PHOTO  |  The teachers union at Shoreham-Wading River agreed to a hard freeze on salaries for the 2014-15 school year.

The Shoreham-Wading River school board and the district’s teachers union reached an agreement in June that will result in a $1.5 million savings through a combination of decreases in steps and a hard freeze, Superintendent Steven Cohen said in an interview last week.

A step is an incremental increase in salary based on individual professional experience, according to the state Department of Education.

Mr. Cohen said in an email this week that if a settlement hadn’t been reached by the previous contract’s June 30 expiration, the district would have had to pay “$1.5 million more than the renewed contract calls for.”

In the 2013-14 school year, the first year of the new four-year contract, all step increases will be reduced to 2.5 percent, he said. If there had been no new agreement, the average step increase would have been 2.8 percent, Mr. Cohen added.

During the next school year (2014-15), teacher salaries will be held flat, with no step increases or annual raises, a contract provision known as a hard freeze. The third year will include a 2.25 percent increase in steps. During the final year of the contract teachers will move up on the step scale, Mr. Cohen said.

jennifer@timesreview.com