It's been a rough couple of weeks for everyone in the Harlem school district. Teachers, parents, kids and school leaders alike, but with this overwhelming vote everyone is hoping those days are behind us.
"It's really been exciting to be involved with something with so much support, from our parents especially, our board came together. There was a lot of good things that happened as we closed this out and the bottom line, we truly have an opportunity to continue to make a phenomenal impact on our kids," says Harlem High School teacher Bill Dredge.
Teachers voted 486 to 8, to approve the new tentative contract and it is still tentative because the school board still has to sign off on it. That is not expected to be a problem because the board proposed the deal. The teachers' union won't release details until board members vote next Tuesday. The sticking point has always been the district's two-tiered pay scales that give newer teachers lower raises than more tenured ones. The union president says under the new deal everyone is on the same page.
"Everyone has now come together to bring the best quality people, retain the best quality people here in the district," says Teachers' Union President Lynn Kearney.
The pay scale teachers were hoping for would give all teachers a five percent raise each year for three years off their base salary of around $31,000. Teachers say they don't expect any lingering tensions with school leaders coming out of negotiations.
"We as a staff are definitely excited about the opportunity we've been presented and I know they are too. We have a very common interest, that's the product of providing a quality education for our kids and I don't see any problems," says Dredge.
Teachers also decided to make donations to Harlem community foundations to thank parents for their support. The school board will meet next Tuesday at noon to vote on the tentative agreement. Superintendent Pat Deluca plans to comment afterword.