NISKAYUNA -- Nearly three months after Niskayuna’s teachers contract expired, around 30 teachers turned out to the school board meeting in a show of strength.
After the meeting, union leaders said negotiations with Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra Jr. and other administrators had not progressed as smoothly as they had hoped, arguing teachers were seeking provisions that addressed “classroom conditions” and boosted benefits, in recognition of a strengthening economy.
“It still has gone slow,” said Mary Eads, the union president and a high school history teacher.
The teachers, who all wore some form of black, sat throughout the school board’s Monday meeting. None of the teachers made comments about their attendance at the public meeting.
After the meeting, the union’s president and vice president said they had hoped to have the contract finalized by July, but they had been unable to come to a final resolution with administrators -- in what is the first teachers' contract negotiated with Tangorra as the district's superintendent.
“We wanted to remind them we are here,” said James Edgar, the union vice president and a high school teacher, referring to the teachers' presence.
Edgar and Eads said they have actively negotiated with administrators since January – a time window they had thought would be long enough to reach an agreement.
The union leaders said they wanted a contract that would address concessions teachers made in previous contracts, negotiated during difficult budget years. Citing what they called “classroom conditions,” the teachers said that, as positions were cut in the district over the years, teachers have had to teach more sections and more students. That has cut back on planning time and other time outside of the classroom, union leaders said.
“We are still feeling the effects of some of the changes made years ago in tough budgets,” Edgar said. “The economy is in a much stronger place, and we’ve said we would like to see our contract negotiations reflect where we are now.”
But the union leaders would not comment specifically about what types of concessions they hoped district officials would make or what types of concessions they were willing to make.
While district officials and union leaders continue to negotiate a new contract, the old contract remains in effect. District spokesman Matt Leon said there are three meetings set over the coming weeks to continue negotiations, and that administrators hope to reach an agreement soon.