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Oswego teachers, board divided over workday, wages

Updated: January 14, 2013 6:06PM

OSWEGO — Teachers in the Oswego School District appear far from walking out, but dozens of them crowded the School Board meeting this week as negotiations between the district and the Oswego Education Association drag on.

Contract sticking points include pay for all teachers and working hours for high school teachers following the switch from block scheduling.

According to an update from the district’s attorney Monday night, teachers are asking to keep the current high school schedule, with teachers working five instructional periods a day, plus one planning period, one supervision or professional development period, and one duty-free lunch period. Teachers are in the school longer, but are actually teaching 30 fewer minutes each day under the eight-period school day schedule.

The agreement establishing that schedule was reached by the previous district administration in February, without the School Board’s approval, according to the school attorney.

“With each high school teacher teaching 30 fewer minutes each day, approximately 9,000 minutes of daily instructional time had to be covered by additional staff members,” said Maureen Lemon, attorney representing the district.

“And, while the district can’t quantify the specific number, this has resulted in the hiring of additional teachers, at least 12, possibly as many as 22 additional teachers, to cover those instructional minutes at the high school.”

She said that estimates for the cost of those additional teachers ranges from $900,000 to $1.6 million.

“When this board and the new administration learned of this new schedule, it was logistically too late to change it for the current school year,” Lemon said.

The School Board now has proposed that starting next year, most teachers teach six instructional periods, with one preparation period and one lunch. Some would still have just five periods, and those assigned seven periods out of the eight-period workday would be given an overload payment of 10 percent — a proposal that drew gasps and mumbling from the teachers attending the board meeting.

School Board President Bill Walsh said that the previous administration made commitments to the district’s teachers without board approval.

“We as the board, even though we didn’t know of them, honored them for this year, and that’s what’s under discussion now,” Walsh said.

When asked whether those agreements should have been signed off on by the board, Walsh said, “Some of them should have been. The board should have been advised on them and they weren’t.”

Teachers and the school board are also still negotiating salary increases.

The teachers union in July proposed a 1 percent increase to some but not all teachers, plus lane increases for those who have attained additional degrees or certifications, and step increases for years served.

The School Board’s latest offer includes across-the-board salary increases — a half-percent in the first year, 1 percent in year two, and 1.5 percent in year three, plus lane increases, but no step increases.

The School Board and teachers union have met twice with a federal mediator.

Last week, the board presented its most recent proposal to the teachers. The OEA executive board is reviewing the proposed contract before putting it to the teachers for a vote. No further negotiation days have been set.

Oswego teachers have been working under an expired contract since July 31.

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