Schenectady teachers agreed to millions of dollars in concessions in their new contract Wednesday, giving up raises and some step increases as well as stipends and paid professional development.
They also agreed to pay more for health insurance.
In total, the district will save $2.6 million over the length of the four-year contract.
Teachers usually receive two raises: a step increase, based on years of service and usually set in stone decades ago; and an annual raise that is contractually negotiated every few years.
This time, both types of raises are changing.
Teachers will give up six months of their step increases next year, saving the district $1 million. They also agreed to lower the step increases for teachers who have worked at the district the longest. They enjoyed large raises because of their longevity.
Those step increases were lowered significantly while newer teachers will get bigger increases. But the overall change saved the district money, spokeswoman Karen Corona said.
Teachers also agreed to take no additional raises this year or next. In 2013-2014, teachers will get a 0.5 percent raise. In 2014-2015, the last year of the contract, they will get a 2 percent raise.
They will also pay 2 percent more for their health insurance, saving the schools $196,000 a year.
Giving up stipends and paid summertime professional development saved the schools the most: $3.6 million. Teachers will still take classes in the summer, but they’ll take them without pay.
“The reality is, if we don’t spend the money on that, we can hopefully save positions,” union President Juliet Benaquisto said.
After taking into account the cost of the raises and step increases over the four-year contract, the overall net savings is $2.6 million.
Members overwhelmingly approved the contract by a vote of 594 to 133. They voted for the concessions in hopes of avoiding layoffs, Benaquisto said.
“It was always on my mind and those of us who were negotiating,” she said. “It may not be able to save every position, but it should go a long way.”
New Superintendent Laurence Spring agreed.
“This will benefit the school district and the community,” he said. “We are very pleased that the [union] was able and willing to work with the district to help reduce costs and save money in the long term.”
The contract also included a deal on APPR, a state-required system for evaluating teachers and training them if they need to improve.
Benaquisto said she’s happy with the final agreement, which spells out clearly how the improvement plans would be written so that teachers know exactly what they must do to improve.
The agreement also pushes every teacher to evaluate their instruction, even if their observers say they are doing a good job.
“Regardless of what is playing out politically, I do believe there is value in a teacher reflecting on their practice,” Benaquisto said. “It does reflect what we really value.”
She added that teachers had to offer concessions in light of the district’s struggle to make ends meet.
“Our members certainly recognized the times that we’re in,” she said. “I wish schools were funded differently.”
Contract negotiations were completed under former Superintendent John Yagielski. Voting began last week and closed Wednesday. The school board will vote on the agreement on July 2.