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FLEX TIME PROPOSAL INTRUDES ON TEACHERS TALKS

While pay issues still separate negotiators for the Clarence School District and its teachers union, a flexible time proposal from district representatives is a new cause for consternation in union ranks.

Mary Grad, president of the Clarence Teachers Association, said the union is unhappy with a proposal that would have some members working afternoons and evenings rather than the hours most students are present.

She said those affected would be guidance counselors, psychologists, social workers and librarians. They would provide counseling and keep the library open after normal school hours. And they wouldn't report to work before noon.

"It's a great concept to sell the community, but not a good concept for teachers," said Ms. Grad, who is concerned about security problems for staffers working alone in a building at night. "If it's open to the community we don't know who is coming in."

She said that some parents would likely use the libraries for baby-sitting purposes, meaning there would also be safety concerns for students. Children could get hurt or be exposed to inappropriate Internet material, said Ms. Grad. "They are not hiring principals or nurses to work nights."

Ms. Grad said the proposal was meant to divide union membership, which has been at odds with the district for months. The two sides are presently in mediation, after declaring an impasse in contract negotiations.

But Superintendent Thomas G. Coseo has a different take on the flex time proposal, which he sees as another means of helping students meet the state's new learning standards.

Coseo noted that proposed changes in state regulations would mandate remedial services outside the regular program. Struggling students would get extra time before school, after school or in summer school. Guidance, attendance and pupil personnel services would be included.

"We're asking students to perform at higher levels, and time is a critical factor," said Coseo, noting that one thing schools can do is reconfigure the time spent on task. "The school day of the future may look very different than it does now."

District and union representatives have met twice with a state mediator and will meet again in early December. The teachers' last contract, a one-year extension, expired last June 30. It was the second one-year extension since a three-year agreement expired in 1996.

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