New Cornell teacher contract lengthens school day

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Cornell teachers and the school board ratified a four-year agreement just five days before classes started Tuesday for about 650 students.

In addition to a salary increase of 4.4 percent annually over the life of the contract, the agreement includes a longer school day that contains more instructional time and additional health insurance contributions by teachers.

Dismissal is at 2:30 p.m. for secondary students and 3:20 p.m. for elementary students because of the longer school day.

The district calendar was adjusted in the spring, moving the start date until after Labor Day to allow for additional time for negotiations between the two parties. The ratifications occurred last Thursday.

Elaborating on the salary increases, superintendent Aaron Thomas said, “One may get $400, one may get $4,000, it kind of depends on years of service, where they are in the salary schedule.”

Cornell, operating on a $12.2 million budget for 2014-15, has 19 steps on the salary scale for district teachers to climb as they accrue additional years of service. Total salary for educators at steps 17 or 18 will see “hefty jumps,” while ones at step 8 or 9 do not, Mr. Thomas said.

The school board voted unanimously to accept the contract, which lengthens the teacher workday by 15 minutes to a total of 7 hours, 30 minutes. The additional time will be used by teachers to increase instruction time, something directors were keen on achieving.

Teachers will see increases in the amount they pay each month for health care. During the first two years of the contract, individual plan holders will pitch in $35, an increase of $10, and family plan holders will pay $70, an increase of  $20 from the previous contract. During the contract’s second half, teachers will pay $50 for individual and $80 for family plans.

School directors voted on the agreement a few hours after the Cornell Education Association approved the contract with a 48-6 vote. 

“I believe that both teams started off with reasonable and realistic expectations and this, along with open communications, made it possible to establish and maintain momentum throughout the process,” Tavis Bogue, CEA president, wrote in an email Tuesday.

Mr. Bogue, who teaches high school chemistry, environmental biology, biochemistry and advanced science, credited the school board's negotiations team for its hard work.

“The process reaching an agreement was professional and collaborative and all decisions and agreements were made with the best interest of our school district in mind,” Mr. Thomas said.

Sonja Reis, freelance writer:

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