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Eight-year teachers pact wins Lew-Port board's OK

The Lewiston-Porter School Board adopted an eight-year contract with its teachers union last week that, among other things, means the end of a long held but controversial trust fund.

Under the new contract, the district no longer will contribute to the teachers health insurance fund, said Superintendent R. Christopher Roser. The remaining money in that account will be used to defray teacher health-benefit costs over the next three to five years.

The Lew-Port United Teachers agreed to have their health insurance administered from the NY-44 Trust Fund and will begin paying a larger percentage of their health insurance costs in coming years. That percentage will climb to 10 percent by the contract's last year.

The new coverage through Independent Health is expected to begin on Oct. 1.

"There should be no questioning of anything anymore," said Kevin Jeruszewski, union president. "We worked with the district on this in total transparency."

Teachers ratified the contract, 141-28, and the School Board adopted it unanimously on Tuesday. It is retroactive to July 1, 2008, and extends over the next five years.

Under the contract's new salary schedule, the 204 union members can earn an additional $4,600. It's going to take an extra four years to get there, though, and at a slower pace.

"It's an excellent settlement for the district that will result in significant savings," Roser said.

Faculty salaries were capped at $76,356 after 16 years under the old contract. It will take 18 years to reach that salary under the new contract, but after 20 years, teachers will earn $80,995. They also get a 1 percent salary increase each year after that.

Teachers in their 15th and 16th years will see less of a salary increase this year than they would have under the old contract, but the salary schedule remains the same for all others.

Any teachers at the top of the old salary schedule for longer than a year will automatically move to the top of the new schedule. Those who got stuck at the top for less than a year will earn $78,216 this year and reach the top of the new schedule next year. No teachers will receive retroactive pay. "We really wanted to make it equitable and palatable to everybody," Jeruszewski said. "And we wanted security."

The settlement is less than $100,000, which means it does not require a vote by the public as stipulated in a referendum that passed at this year's elections.

The contract also calls for adding 30 minutes of instructional time to the school day for kindergarten through fifth grade. Three curriculum development meetings a month have been designated to take place after school hours to increase student contact time.

email: niagaranews@buffnews.com

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