BKW to go public with teachers' negotiations

BERNE — The Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board is planning to present details of its negotiations with the Teachers Association at its June 17 meeting, two years after an impasse and four years after the last extension of their agreement.

“It could lead to some feedback, good or bad,” board President Vasilios Lefkaditis said Monday. “It’s just for the interest of transparency.” He said the district met with the Teachers Association, one of four bargaining units at BKW, about four times since an impasse was declared in March 2011, last meeting a year ago.

The union, which is affiliated with New York State United Teachers, has about 75 full-time-equivalent members. It includes nurses, guidance counselors, and part- and full-time teachers.

Lefkaditis called the past year a “discovery period” where both sides requested information from the district business office and exchanged e-mails. The state-mandated Annual Professional Performance Review, for evaluating teachers’ work, was negotiated with the Teachers Association in 2012 as well.

In September 2011, an update was given of what both sides had offered in negotiations — normally done out of public view in executive session. Lefkaditis said he was not sure whether there would be enough time to prepare information from the teachers’ side for the upcoming meeting.

By law, the union has had the provisions of its contract in place. Its last full contract was from 2002 to 2007, extended twice until 2009. A provision in the state’s labor relations law, known as the Triborough Amendment, requires a public employer to honor step increases in pay in a collective bargaining agreement after it has expired.

Kelly Smith, president of the BKW Teachers Association, could not be reached for comment.

At its June 3 meeting, the board approved memoranda of agreement with two BKW bargaining units, Helderberg Administrators Association and the Civil Service Employees Association, to change prescription drug insurance providers from Catamaran to Express Scripts Inc.

The agreement says the board does not expect any “formulary or participatory” changes. The change are estimated to save the district $136,000, but Business Official David Hodgkinson recommended in April that the estimated savings not be included in the budget until the district has had experience with the new provider.

Superintendent Paul Dorward said a letter from the Teachers Association agreeing with the change was forthcoming, and the Teachers Support Staff agreed initially.

“If you want to go to an executive session, I can expand on that,” Dorward said, after board member Helen Lounsbury questioned whether or not the Teachers Support Staff approved the changes.

The memoranda passed with four in favor.

“I guess I’m opposed, I’m not comfortable with that at all.” Lounsbury said, referring to Dorward’s comment.

Other business

In other business, the board of education:

— Heard Dean of Students Leonard Kies present third marking-period discipline reports for grades seven through 12.

The number of students with multiple referrals declined from 11 to eight percent of all students from the second to the third quarter, said Kies. The overall number of referrals declined from 361 to 236. Kies said no discipline actions were subject to the Dignity For All Students Act, a state law that went into effect last year to address bullying and harassment in schools;

— Postponed, 4 to 1, a policy outlining the duties and qualifications of the district superintendent for Dorward to suggest revisions. Lounsbury was opposed.

Board member Jill Norray said the stipulation of monthly written communication with the board was unnecessary. Dorward said some of the data requested in a comprehensive report due in June is not available then, a busy point in the year for administrators;

— Approved, 5 to 0, a policy outlining the format of meeting agendas, to schedule presentations earlier, just before by-monthly administrative reports;

— Accepted, 5 to 0, the results of the May 21 district vote. Winning school board candidates Earl Barcomb and Joan Adriance were in the gallery. They will begin their terms in July. Chasity McGivern was on the board for the first time, occupying the term vacated by Maureen Sikule;

— Voted, 5 to 0, to dedicate the new softball field to Cathy Allen, a former softball and volleyball coach, and current physical-education teacher. Her teams won eight league championships and she is currently Section II softball coordinator, secondary school Principal Brian Corey and Athletic Director Tom Galvin wrote in a letter to the board requesting the dedication;

— Approved, 5 to 0, a policy about probation and tenure, adding a requirement that the superintendent notify the board of education about a staff member’s recommendation 90 days before a tenure date;

— Approved, 5 to 0, screening rubrics for elementary-school teachers and secondary-school special-education teachers;

— Voted, 4 to 1, to authorize Benetech Inc. to perform a dependent eligibility audit. “I don’t think we need it,” said Lounsbury, who cast the only opposing vote. Hodgkinson said the cost would be roughly $269 each month, not taking from the general fund but paid for through Board Of Cooperative Educational Services health insurance trust;

— Was asked by Adriance to announce revisions to a meeting agenda not posted on the district’s website. Adriance also asked meeting minutes not currently on the website be posted;

— Heard from BKW parent Jean Forti about a scheduling conflict between eighth-grade honors earth science and band. “It’s the same kids that would be in eighth-grade band that would be in the environmental science class,” said Forti;

— Approved, 3 to 2, the addition of padding to doors and posts in the school gym for around $2,400. Gerald Larghe and Vasilios Lefkaditis abstained. “I think it’s a great idea, but I didn’t see it. I can’t spend two-, three-thousand dollars without seeing it,” said Lefkaditis;

— Reported that BKW has received a 100-percent pass rating for inspections by the state’s Department of Transportation. Denise Towne, transportation director for the district, said in her letter to the board that this means BKW has one of the best maintenance programs in the state; and

— Accepted the resignations of elementary school teacher Marlene Tiffany and school nurse Joyce Besha. The board appointed Beth Davis as Key Club advisor and approved the tenure of elementary-school teacher Richard Holoday.