School Officials Still Working Out Meeting Date To Negotiate UTA Contract
Utica, NY (WIBX) - After the teacher's union rejected the contract offer from the Utica School District earlier this week, both sides say they remain hopeful an agreement will eventually be reached, despite missing today's goal to meet again. United Teachers Union President, Larry Custodero, who is in the hospital recovering from knee surgery, says if the union knew all the details going into their last meeting, the outcome of the vote could have been different.
He said, "When the Superintendent put in the 2.8 [million] that he was going to get from the governor for the APPR and the one point something, if we take the freeze and everything else. When we negotiated, we asked him to do that and then we could have negotiated longer, he refused to do it, he ended up putting it in now at the board meeting on Tuesday night and our feeling was if he had done that we would have been able to negotiate that the money would have been in there, it would have given us more time to talk to the teachers and get things straigthened out, he claims differently, but that's his claim."
Superintendent of Schools, Bruce Karam says the details of the contract was clear from the beginning. He says after the two initial school board and public budget presentations, he met with teachers at every school in the district to explain the budget and says he's at a loss when he hears that somebody didn't understand what was in the budget.
"I scheduled at each building in our district, and there's 13 of them--10 elementary, two middle and a high school--a special budget presentation for the teachers and staff at each building. It took me three weeks because I did one a day after school, and I went around and I did the same slide show and the same presentation to all the teachers and the staff in every building. And then I opened it for questions. I explained the options, I explained, 'this is what needs to be done if we're going to safe jobs,' and how many jobs and everything, and it was pretty clear cut."
But, Custodero says there were some other sticking points too. "Some teachers didn't want to not take a cut I image, and the other one was they didn't ... it's the first time they didn't gaurantee that everybody was going to get hired back. I know that was a big sticking point. And, he didn't make full-time kindergarten his number one priority until the day of the vote, so bassically a bunch of reasons," he said.
Chris Salatino, Utica School Board President, also chimed in to explain the possible miscommunication concerning the budget. He says it concerns separating the teachers contract from the accountability initiative. "In January we did request from the union negotiators, or we had mention to them that we would be glad to separate the two because we were dealing with a pay freeze, which is what we were looking for for one year, and then also on the table was the teacher accountability initiative. So, we had said we would be glad to separate it but at the time the negotiating team wanted to keep it together, we did give them the opportunity to separate them out," he said.
Both Karam and Custodero say they've exchanged letters and that they remain optimistic that an agreement will be reached soon. Karam said, "I sent the letter out yesterday, I'm waiting to hear, I'll start, listen ... I'll start first thing Monday morning. I was ready to start today. I would have started yesterday. I mean, I'm dead serious about this, we want to get this done. We want to do whatever it takes to get this done. We want to restore that aid so we can restore jobs."