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TALKS WITH TEACHERS RESUME, AIDED BY FACT-FINDER'S REPORT

Negotiations between the Dunkirk Teachers Association and the Board of Education have resumed after an 11-month hiatus, with a recently released state fact finder's report serving as the basis for talks.

Sessions are scheduled for Thursday and for Dec. 30, Board President Adelino Gonzalez Jr. has said. The contract expired on June 30, 1996.

Stuart Pohl of Williamsville was the fact finder for the Public Employment Relations Board. He recommended a five-year contract retroactive to July 1, 1996, and expiring on June 30, 2001. He also recommended increases in salaries, but less than requested by the teachers' union.

"It is of some relevance that whatever compensation terms are ultimately agreed to by these parties will be funded, in part, by county taxpayers, many of whom already are hard pressed to make ends meet," Pohl wrote.

He also recommended that the teachers' union withdraw its proposal that additional health insurance coverage be given to retirees. Again he cited the "economic realities present in Chautauqua County."

Another recommendation was that the drug co-payment be increased and that an HMO health-insurance option be added to the contract and made available to all union employees on a voluntary basis. The district should pay 95 percent and the employee 5 percent of the HMO premiums, he wrote.

Pohl also recommended that the union withdraw proposals to give teachers at the elementary schools 2 1/2 hours of preparation time per week and to pay teachers more if class size is greater than 20 pupils in kindergarten through second grade, 23 in Grades 3 through 5, and 25 in middle and high schools.

Pohl also recommended that five district proposals be withdrawn, including extending the teacher work-year from 184 to 185 days without additional compensation; changing the teachers' workday from seven to eight hours and the department chairmen's workday from 7 1/2 to eight hours; and increasing the number of evening events from one to two per year.

Pohl also recommended that the district's position of finding the "best" coach be withdrawn. The contract now gives preference to staff members for coaching positions.

In a final recommendation, Pohl said that if no teacher volunteers to work a sixth instructional assignment, the district can assign a teacher with the correct certification to take that class. The teacher can then receive an extra $3,000 in compensation or an extra preparation period.

In addition to the negotiations, the board is involved in a search for a superintendent to succeed Terry Wolfenden, who is retiring March 1.

Three finalists each spent a day in the district last week to speak with teachers, administrators, parents and others. The names of he finalists have not yet been released.

"It will be a hard choice," Gonzalez said.

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