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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 22, 2011

Unanimous vote
Scant raises for management unit in new two-year contract

GUILDERLAND — At about the same time the school district declared an impasse with its largest union, the teachers’, after 20 meetings over the course of nearly a year, it settled on a contract with one of its smallest bargaining units — the Non-Instructional Supervisory and Other Management Personnel.

The unit had its first meeting with the district in July and, four months later, on Nov. 15, agreed to the new contract, said Lin Severance, the district’s assistant superintendent for human resources.

The new contract was approved unanimously by the unit’s 12 members and by the school board at its Dec. 13 meeting. The two-year contract runs from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2013.

The first year of the contract, the unit members will receive a 1.85-percent increase in pay, according to Severance. “But,” she told The Enterprise, “we have deferred the effective date till January 1, 2012.”

The net cost, then, said school board President Colleen O’Connell is .925 percent.

The second year of the contract, Severance said, has no raise. “It’s a true zero,” she said. “There is no increase on anything.” She said there are no built-in step increases for unit members because they are salaried employees.

This is in marked contrast to the former three-year contract, negotiated in 2008, before the recession, under the direction of the former assistant superintendent for human resources, Susan Tangorre. The contract, which expired on June 30, 2011, granted raises of 3.85 percent for each of the three years. The salaries in 2008 ranged from $33,336 to $93,974.

In both contracts, salaries vary depending on experience. The lowest-paid member of the unit this year earns $36,000 and has two years of experience, Severance said; the most senior member, with 20 years of experience, earns $103,005. All of the unit’s members work 12 months of the year.

“One of the things I find so satisfying in this district,” said Severance, “is, when the members come to the bargaining table, it is so collegial.” Everyone, she said, understands the difficult economic times. “It’s a cooperative process,” said Severance. And satisfying to move from the first meeting, “when you feel worlds apart to signing the contract.”

At last week’s board meeting, O’Connell thanked the district for its “fiscally responsible” and “creative solutions.” And she thanked the unit’s negotiators “for working collaboratively with us.”

Health insurance

“The most significant thing was the health-insurance piece,” said Severance of the contract. “Our board of education had hoped to get some movement on the health insurance.”

Most Guilderland employees pay for 20 percent of their health-insurance costs while the district pays for 80 percent.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders said that the district’s share for individuals is about $6,000 to $7,000 and for family plans is about $15,000 to $17,000.

The current members of the management unit are “grandfathered in” under the new contract, said Severance, and will continue to pay for 20 percent of their health-insurance costs. But, for two of the titles, when new people are hired, they will pay 22 percent.

The 12 members of the unit are: the transportation supervisor, the assistant transportation supervisor, the director of physical plant management, the director of technology, the bus maintenance supervisor, the custodial supervisor, the school lunch director, the school business administrator/district treasurer, the director of custodial services, the school bus driver trainer, and two school bus garage dispatchers.

The last two titles in that list — the bus driver trainer and the school bus garage dispatcher — are not jobs that involve supervising other people, as the rest of the unit members do. So new hires that fill those jobs without supervisory responsibilities will pay more for their health insurance than the other members of the unit.

The new contract also clarifies language, Severance said, updating to the current titles used by Albany County Civil Service.

For example, when Guilderland was advertising to hire a new superintendent of building and grounds, she said, it made sense to use a title more typical of that for college campuses — the director of physical plant management.

“Guilderland is quite a large school district,” she explained, “with nine specific buildings to maintain with fields. When the job opened, people would apply who had absolutely no idea what it took to run a school district, from polishing floors to fertilizing fields.”

Other business

In other business at its Dec. 13 meeting, the school board:

— Agreed to refund serial bonds issued in 2002, which are currently outstanding in the principal amount of about $8.6 million. This will save about a million dollars over the 11-year life of the bonds, said Sanders;

— Agreed to buy 2,520 cases of paper to be used by all the schools in the district, from the lowest of four bidders — W. B. Mason for $62,974.80;

— Heard congratulations from Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Demian Singleton for all the fall sports teams because each one qualified for the 2011 Scholar/Athlete Team Award, meaning each maintained a team average of 90 percent or higher;

— Heard from Superintendent Marie Wiles that she, along with O’Connell and O’Connell’s daughter, recently had a “wonderful visit” to Tech Valley High School, a regional program that draws students from area schools, including Guilderland.

Wiles said Guilderland is looking at “meaningful next steps we can take…to bring project-based learning here.”

O’Connell, at an earlier meeting, had expressed frustration that Tech Valley High, which was supposed to serve as a model school, had not reached out to Guilderland. At last week’s meeting, she said, “It’s not fair for us to sit here and say [that] as I have publicly…It’s clear they’re interested in working with us”;

— Heard Wiles thank the Guilderland Elks for once again providing third-graders with dictionaries;

— Agreed to increase the solar-panel system by almost 40 percent, at no cost to the district because it is funded by grant money. Sanders said the district is credited for about one-seventh of what it pays for electricity but concluded, “It becomes part of the educational process at Farnsworth Middle School and the high school”;

— Accepted a donated cello from Mr. and Mrs. Wei-Shih Yang;

— Established the Donna Ryan Amato Scholarship in honor of a long-time Guilderland Elementary School teacher who retired in 2010. The scholarship will recognize a graduating senior who has demonstrated academic excellence, a keen interest in education, and wants to pursue a career in elementary education; and

— Met in executive session to discuss a personnel issue and to hear updates on contract negotiations with four units — the Guilderland Teacher Aides Association, the Guilderland Employees Association, the District Office Confidential Personnel, and the Technology and Communications Personnel.

—By Melissa Hale-Spencer

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