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Ken-Ton, teachers union reach agreement on leave time, attendance

The Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District and the union representing its teachers have approved the second of two parts to their contract, settling issues of leave time and attendance.

Teachers agreed to give up three annual leave days in return for flexibility on how those days may be used, said Kenmore Teachers Association President Peter C. Stuhlmiller.

Teachers also will have the opportunity to buy back unused leave days and have that money placed in an account to pay for health insurance upon retirement, he said.

“Our folks don’t get health insurance when they retire. They’re on their own to fund it,” Stuhlmiller said. “So we’re trying to look for ways where members could set aside some funds that will help cover the cost of their health insurance premiums once they retire.”

Teachers contribute 10.2 percent toward their health care, which is the regional average, he said. When the contract ends in 2018, that figure will have risen to 12 percent.

The KTA ratified the agreement Monday at its general membership meeting by a vote of 342 to 69, and the School Board unanimously approved it Tuesday night at its regular meeting in Kenmore Middle School.

“Overall, the membership felt it was a fair deal,” Stuhlmiller said. “That’s all we can ask.”

School Board President Jill Y. O’Malley said she was pleased with the outcome of negotiations.

“It was definitely a long road,” she said. “With a new superintendent, of course, you have to re-establish what the procedure is going to be like. I think everybody tries to feel each other out for a while in the beginning of the process.”

Trustee Bob Dana noted that the district also recently negotiated a new contract with the service employees union.

“These are difficult times, and it’s nice to know that people cooperate and there’s a lot of give-and-take,” he said.

The district and the union last year approved the first part of the contract, which gave teachers a 1 percent raise in the second year of the deal and a 1.25 percent increase in the third year. It also included a retirement incentive. Last year, the district anticipated that 16 teachers would take the incentive, but ended up getting 21.

“Obviously, with the schools closing, we’re concerned about additional job layoffs,” Stuhlmiller said. “Anything we can do to incentivize our veteran teachers to retire early would bring savings to the district but also would open the door for some of our newer teachers to be able to stay in the classrooms.”

The district is closing Roosevelt and Hamilton elementary schools and Kenmore Middle after this school year.