Harlem Teacher Negotiations

By: Max Seigle
By: Max Seigle

If you walked into the Harlem School District offices Saturday, it might have appeared like any other quiet weekend. But as the clock ticked on into the evening hours, the atmosphere behind these closed doors changed as teachers and the Board of Education worked into the night on contract negotiations. "Most of it, no surprises, is financial issues, salary, benefits and other financial issues out there," said Teacher Spokesman Lenny Nieves. He says teachers have felt an unlevel financial playing field when compared to other districts in the state. And he says that's caused teachers to leave the classroom for better offers. "The younger teachers are going because we, the union feels, their salaries aren't competitive," Nieves said. But if you ask District Superintendent Pat Deluca he'll say that's not the case. "I think that's a myth and they have to prove people have left because they went to a comparable size district," DeLuca said. Neither side would comment on contract offer specifics saturday. But Deluca feels the board is giving its best. "I believe the school board has put more resources on the table than any school board can remember." One thing everyone in the district likely remembers is when teachers went on strike for almost two weeks in 2004. It's a scene that both sides Saturday hoped to avoid....and open school this Tuesday as scheduled. Negotiators need to reach an agreement by Sunday afternoon to allow a full 24 hours of review by all teachers...so they can teach by Tuesday. If they don't, the school board could decide cancel to classes. District Support Staff are also working on a contract. DeLuca says a tentative agreement was reached on both sides and he expects final approval soon.

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