Wage freeze proves too divisive for SSCS


By Patsy Nicosia

In the end, Sharon Springs Central School administrators and teachers were unable to come to an agreement on a wage freeze.
The move would have been unprecedented, but it became “such a decisive issue that we could no longer proceed,” said John Walker, president of the teachers’ union.
Emotionally and time-wise—union representatives estimated they spent 30-40 hours in meetings and researching the requested one-year freeze—Mr. Walker said they felt it was time to move on.
In a prepared statement, the teachers’ union called news from Governor Paterson’s office that statewide, $1.1 billion in proposed cuts would be restored (though state aid itself would remain flat) “welcome.
“As taxpayers ourselves, we are pleased that our children have a government, community, and school that values education.”
SSCS Superintendent Pat Green and Business Administrator Tony DiPace said the teachers’ union notified them Friday they couldn’t agree to the requested freeze.
Mr. DiPace said the union had countered the district’s offer for a full one-year freeze with an offer of a partial freeze along with some concessions from the district.
The concessions included some “contract clarifications,” Mr. DiPace said, that the district could have supported.
It also included a request to shorten the work year by two days, however, something he said they could not.
With talks over, both administration and teachers stressed the need to move forward.
“We’ve always had a very good staff here,” Mr. Green said. “That hasn’t changed. I want to make it clear that not everyone rejected our offer.”
Mr. Walker characterized the administration as “very positive to work with.
“My frustration has been some of what’s been said out in the community. We’ve been working to find places we can cut and we’ll continue to do that.”
SSCS plans to adopt its $8.5 million budget Monday—and Mr. DiPace said he believes the school board is still committed to a zero percent tax increase—“and will cut to do that.”
That will require cutting the equivalent of three fulltime teaching positions and moving four teaching assistants from full- to part-time.
It will also require using $100,000 from the district’s fund balance.
Mr. Green said they’re still waiting for more details from Albany on how much aid will be restored—and hoping they’ll have it before Monday.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed this didn’t work out,” he added of the wage freeze.
“It had the potential to be a win-win situation for the district, SSCS, and the community.”
It’s unclear what will happen to the wage freezes already agreed upon by the non-teachers’ union and confidential managerial.