East Aurora Dist. 131 signs 'historic' teacher, support worker contract

Updated 11/5/2018 9:06 PM

The East Aurora District 131 school board approved what board President Annette Johnson called a "historic" labor contract with its teachers Monday night.

"We have finally created equity," Johnson said. "What that means to our families and our children is now teachers will not leave East Aurora, because they are being paid equal to what other school districts teachers are being paid."

She invited Gerry Mestek, president of the East Aurora Council, American Federation of Teachers Local 604, to the dais to sign the contract. The board then recessed to a dessert reception celebrating the three-year deal.

The union and district reached a tentative agreement Oct. 4. The total increase on the salary schedule approved was not available.

The contract specifies pay with a step-and-lane format, where steps are experience and lanes are for the amount of graduate education the teacher attains.

However, the starting salary, for a teacher with just a bachelor's degree, will stay the same as the last year of the previous contract, at $45,620. So will the top pay, for a teacher with 35 years of experience, a master's degree plus another 48 hours of graduate education or a doctorate.

The goals was to increase pay in the middle of the grid: for people with master's degrees and some experience, according to Mestek. For example, the salary for a person with two years of experience and a master's degree would be 2.2 percent higher than the old contract.

"I have to agree with the board for once: This is a historic moment, this is a historic contract. ... We put together a darn good contract," Mestek said.

The contract covers about 1,000 teachers. It also covers about 400 support workers and 100 office workers.

Contract negotiations began in February. An impasse was declared in August. On Sept. 24, the union filed a 10-day notice of intent to strike.

The two sides disagreed initially on the amount of money the district has available to increase pay. The union contended that the district will receive an additional $64 million in the next three fiscal years from the state in evidence-based funding. The district said it expected only about $24 million in the next three years.

The union also wanted limits on class sizes. The new contract sets class size thresholds in reading, mathematics, science and social studies classes. It requires the superintendent to review class sizes on Oct. 1 and Feb. 1, and take steps to "ameliorate" classes that exceed those thresholds.

The contract adds a salary schedule, with provisions for years of experience, for the support and office workers.

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