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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 12, 2011

Contract has new requirements
No raises for GCSD principals

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — In a split vote last week, the school board approved a one-year contract with the Guilderland Principals’ Association that gives the eight members no pay raises but adjusts their contributions to health-insurance costs accordingly.

The contract includes new state requirements that principals be evaluated, in part, by student performance.

Superintendent Marie Wiles called it a great help to the district — which has proposed cutting 40 jobs in next year’s budget — that it would “not have an increase to their compensation next year.”

The school board president, Richard Weisz, thanked the unit for its leadership in coming up with a neutral cash commitment.

“On paper, it looks like a 2.6-percent increase over the previous year’s base salary,” explained Lin Severance, the district’s assistant superintendent for human resources, the day after the meeting. “They are trading what they would have received in a raise to health insurance,” she said of the principals.

Unlike other Guilderland employees, most of whom contribute 20 percent of health-care costs while the district pays 80 percent, those in the principals’ unit had paid 17 percent, leaving the district with 83 percent of the costs.

Under the new contract, the percentages are calculated individually, Severance said, since the salaries are different. The range of health-care contributions now runs from 20 to 30 percent, said Severance.

“At the end of the day, there’s not another penny in their paycheck,” said Severance.

The salaries for the eight members range from $95,000 to $127,710 annually, according to Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders. Each works 12 months of the year.

The unit includes five elementary, one middle-school, and one high-school principal as well as the administrator for special programs. The salaries vary with the size of the building — with the high school and middle school being much larger than the elementary schools — and with years of experience, said Sanders.

Of the seven school-board members present on May 3, six voted in favor of the contract and Barbara Fraterrigo voted against it. When asked why, she said this week, “It increases the pension costs…It’s great for this year but we have to plan for the future.”

Severance said that the vote by the unit’s members was unanimous.

She also said that the reason the contract is just one year — running from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012 — has “a lot to do with the economic climate.”

The one-and-a-half page contract also has “cleaned-up language,” said Severance.

Guilderland has 12 bargaining units and, traditionally, the principals’ unit is the only one that negotiates directly with the school board. Negotiations this time started out that way but then, because of the new state requirements on evaluating principals, “additional expertise” was needed, said Severance, so Wiles and Sanders joined the board during the negotiation process.

New requirements

The new requirements for evaluating teachers and principals came about as New York State tried to secure federal Race to the Top funds. After missing out in the first round of funds, New York came in second in August after the State Education Department worked with teachers’ unions to develop a system to evaluate educators, in part based on student test scores. Half of the $700 million goes to the State Education Department with the rest divided among districts; Guilderland’s share is about $31,000.

When The Enterprise last August asked Demian Singleton, Guilderland’s assistant superintendent for instruction, if he believed it is a good idea to evaluate teachers based on student performance, Singleton said, “Plenty of research indicates it’s not. You have so many variables that influence learning besides just the teacher,” he said, naming home life and socio-economic status.

The new regulations for evaluating teachers and principals go into effect on Sept. 1, 2011, Severance told the school board in November. They will be rated as highly effective, effective, developing, or ineffective.

Forty percent of the rating will be based on student achievement measures. At the start, 20 percent will be from state tests and 20 percent will be local; that will shift to 25 percent based on state tests, once the state has developed a student growth model, and 15 percent local.

Sixty percent will be developed locally through collective bargaining.

Eight of the nine mandated criteria are already part of Guilderland’s evaluation process, said Severance, and have been part of previous negotiations. “A lot of the work in the district has already been done,” she said. The state has supplied no guidance on the ninth criterion, she said.

“We’re going to be building this plane as we’re flying it,” she said in November.

Last week, she echoed that sentiment, stating, “There are an awful lot of unknowns as we move forward.”

Other administrators’ pay

In February, the school board was criticized, in the midst of trying to close a $4 million budget gap, for giving other administrators raises.

The board ratified a three-year contract with the 10 members of Guilderland School Administrators’ Association, which added 3.5 percent to the 2009-10 base salaries in the current school year and 2.6 percent for each of the following two years. Before the 3.5-percent was added, annual salaries for the 10 administrators ranged from $75,000 to $107,463.

At the Feb. 15 board meeting, Wiles announced that she would not take an agreed-upon raise next year. Wiles started work at Guilderland on Oct. 1 with an annual salary of $175,000 and had been slated for a 1-percent raise next year.

The governor has proposed a cap on superintendents’ salaries that, if passed into law, would be set at no more than $165,000 for districts Guilderland’s size. The cap would be applied only as contracts expire, and districts could override the cap during the May budget votes.

In March, the board, in a split vote, approved extending for a year, until June 30, 2012, its contract with the District Office Administrators’ unit. The agreement, as with the principals’ contract, kept wages the same but shifted the share the three members pay for health insurance.

The three assistant superintendents agreed to pay 30 percent. That contribution, Sanders said, is being offset by an equal amount in salary.

Sanders has been Guilderland’s assistant superintendent for business for over seven years. His salary this year is $136,612, and will be the same again next year.

The assistant superintendent for human resources, Severance, earns $124,202. The assistant superintendent for instruction, Singleton, earns $121,985. They have each been in their posts almost three years.

All of the assistant superintendents work 12 months of the year, as does the superintendent.

Two of the nine board members — Fraterrigo and Emilio Genzano — voted against it.

“We voted against the structure, not the concept,” Genzano told The Enterprise in March. “My vote was to limit the raises so the pension numbers didn’t increase…The compromise was, after a long debate, that it was only a one-year deal, so we can go back to the table again next year.”

Fraterrigo agreed. “This group has been very generous in what they offered for their fantastic services,” she told The Enterprise in March of the assistant superintendents. “But the taxpayer is still on the hook — if you increase the salary, you increase the pension….We just keep piling on for future years.”

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