District, teachers agree to three-year contract

Teachers in the Whitehall Central School District will see a bump in their pay but will be asked to contribute more to their health insurance policies under a new three-year contract approved last month.

The contract provides an average salary increase of 1.83 percent over the three-year period after taking into consideration an increase in teachers’ medical contributions. There will also be a pay freeze during the life of the contract on all athletic and extracurricular stipends.

Superintendent James Watson said the contract required both sides to make concessions but believes the two sides reached an equitable agreement.

“With the merger of the salary increases and the teachers’ medical contributions I felt we came up with something that was reasonable for both sides. I feel it’s a win-win,” he said.

Penny Whiting, who retired from the district effective at the end of last month but who served as the president of the Whitehall Teachers’ Union during negotiations, said some teachers were happy with the contract and other weren’t.

“I feel it’s a fair contract but some of the people at the top (pay tier) didn’t make out as well as people in the middle,” she said.

Members of the teachers’ union and the district have been working on the deal since March and Watson said it took the sides five or six meeting to broker a deal. The agreement was reached before the previous contract was set to expire on June 30.

The contract took effect Monday and is good through June 30, 2016. 

Under the provisions of the agreement, teachers will receive a 1.86 percent pay increase in the first year of the contract and will not be asked to increase their contribution to their health plans.

Their medical contributions, however, increase from 10 to 12 percent during the second year of the agreement and from 12 to 13 percent in the final year. After factoring in those increases, teachers’ pay will increase 1.52 percent in the second year and 2.12 percent in the final year.

“I think the board recognized that it should put some additional dollars in the teachers’ pay schedule and I think the teachers recognized they had to give a little more in terms of medical contributions,” Watson said.

“I have to give a lot of credit to the teachers for understanding the difficulties the district faces with the budget. I felt they approached the negotiations with a degree of reasonableness.”

In its list of upstate school rankings released last October, Whitehall was ranked below many of the school districts in Washington County in terms of teachers’ pay.

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