Representatives of the Manhasset Education Association and the Board of Education held a special meeting and reception on Monday, Sept. 10. At that time, the ratified, agreed upon contract between the Manhasset Public Schools and the Manhasset Educators Association (MEA) was approved by the Board of Education. The MEA is the bargaining unit for the district's 248-member teaching staff. Its membership includes certified teachers. The new contract is retroactive to July 1, 2001, and continues through June 30, 2004.
Dr. Thomas Dolan, assistant superintendent for personnel, said that the agreement was reached in the early morning hours of Aug. 29. The MEA membership voted to approve the contract on Monday, Sept. 10. The board chose to meet this same day in order to display the district's commitment to moving ahead to forge an increasingly positive working relationship with this important employee group.
"The successful conclusion to the collective bargaining process was due to considerable effort and team work, as well as the professionalism of our teaching staff and their representatives," commented Dr. Lawrence Bozzomo, superintendent of schools. "The result is a mutual gains agreement that benefits all parties, most importantly the children of Manhasset. The board and the MEA's negotiating team were able to reach one of the earliest settlements in Manhasset in recent memory."
Various elements of the agreement will serve to make teachers more available to meet with parents, allow greater flexibility in teacher schedules to accommodate student needs, permit teachers to remain current in their chosen fields and create opportunities for teachers and students to meet in supportive environments. "The clear winners in the negotiating process are the children of Manhasset Public Schools," Dr. Bozzomo concluded.
Prior to beginning negotiations in the spring, the district was committed to establishing a mutual gains approach. The board and members of the MEA attended a joint seminar. The purpose of the session was to introduce the topic of mutual gains (a recent innovation in the field of collective bargaining) and to establish a climate of trust upon which the negotiations could be based.
"Additionally," Dr. Bozzomo continued, "the contract provides fair compensation for our teachers. Manhasset remains competitive in attracting quality personnel through a salary scale that compares favorably with other school districts of Manhasset's caliber."
Under the agreement, the teachers' salary increase will be 3.1 percent, 3.25 percent and 3.75 percent respectively, for the three contract years, in addition to increments earned by the teachers.
An additional column in the teachers' contract had been created for those who have earned 75 salary guide points, a combination of graduate work and in-service credit. Unique to this column is the fact that it is "renewable." This means that once a teacher is placed at this salary level, they must complete additional graduate work and/or in-service work in order to maintain this salary increase. Failure to do so will revoke the increase and the teacher will be placed at the previous lower salary level. The benefit to the district is that teachers will continue coursework and in-service work that will keep them current in their fields long into their careers.
Other key points of the new contract:
* An added parent conference day in the spring.
* Flexible scheduling at the secondary schools which will enable the current nine-period day to be expanded to an 11-period day, in some teachers' cases.
* A longevity step that has been added to compensate those teachers with more than 25 years of experience.
* Increased compensation for teachers who write curriculum.
* A yearly $1000 stipend for teachers who pass the rigorous National Teachers' Board Certification test.
* The addition of a Middle School Advisory Program beginning in the fall of 2002.
The following is the statement delivered by Mrs. Barbara Donno, board of education president:
"This evening the Manhasset Board of Education meets in public session to ratify the Memorandum of Agreement between the District and the Manhasset Education Association. This represents the fruition of a negotiation process that began almost one year ago.
"Those negotiations began in a unique way as the board and the MEA attended a workshop on Mutual Gains Bargaining, a relatively new concept in the collective bargaining lexicon at Manhasset. Together we learned that it is possible to negotiate an agreement that yields positive results in agreed upon areas, without either party having to feel that they have given something up. This board and the MEA acknowledged that we had agreed upon interests, among them being the welfare of our students, the reputation of this school district and the sustenance of our teaching staff. Given that we agreed upon those areas, we reasoned that we should be able to find ways to renegotiate an agreement that met those areas of common interest, without either party being forced to concede principles they held to be important. The agreement that was arrived at last week meets each of those goals.
"Needless to say, such an accomplishment is not possible, except when a district is blessed with a very professional teaching staff. Our staff is that special kind of group. They rose to the challenge of this new approach and embraced the opportunity to be partners with us in this endeavor.
"The resultant contract is one that we can all be proud of and which will move this district ahead over the next three years. On behalf of the board I commend the MEA, their leadership and their negotiating team. Today, an overwhelming majority of the MEA membership ratified the memorandum of agreement, and tonight this board of education is pleased to do the same. It is altogether fitting that we take these steps on the same date, lending symbolism to our willingness to move ahead together."
MEA President Barbara Reiss said: "It is most gratifying that so many teachers have shown their appreciation of our work by ratifying the contract today. I learned the other day that the last time the MEA had a contract in place before school started was in 1980. It's been a long time and to have a contract at the start of the school year is a real morale booster for all of us.
"I do feel that there now exists a very positive collegial atmosphere in our schools. That's the way it should be and I hope it will continue. Our sincere thanks go to Tom Dolan for keeping the lines of communication open throughout this whole process. He was always willing to give of his time. Tonight is a unique occasion for us. We are very happy to have been invited to this meeting and to personally express our thanks to the board.'