Glen Cove teachers call for new contract

Date Posted: 
Thursday, June 7, 2018

More than 100 Glen Cove teachers protested outside the district’s board of education meeting Wednesday night, calling on the district to settle its contract with their union.

“We’ve been negotiating since spring of 2017, and we’re getting absolutely nowhere,” said Karen Ferguson, president of the Glen Cove Teachers Association, which has about 286 members.

The district’s contract with the union expired in June 2017, she said. Negotiations, which began in April 2017, stalled in September. An impasse was declared and a state representative was brought in to mediate, Ferguson said.

District Superintendent Maria Rianna said she could not talk about the contract details as negotiations were ongoing.

“I think negotiations are a very difficult situation. You have negotiating teams and unfortunately the community, as well as the teachers, feel they are not always given all of the information during the process, and many may not even understand the process fully,” she said. “I know it’s a very difficult time for the board as well as the community as well as the teachers because we cannot speak in public about the teachers’ contract.”

She added, “It’s very difficult not to be able to speak in public about the ongoing process and ongoing progress.”

Several board members declined to comment, saying the board does not get involved in union negotiations.

Ferguson would not discuss the specifics of the negotiations, except to say teachers want a fair contract with a raise.

The union’s last four-year contract included a raise. It was extended for the 2016-2017 school year. That extended contract included a 0.5 percent increase, Ferguson said.

On Wednesday, teachers, dressed in T-shirts and with signs calling for a fair contract, lined the hallway and aisles of Glen Cove High School’s auditorium.

“We’re trying to make an impact tonight to get them to come to the table ready to settle,” Ferguson said of the district. She said the board meeting was the last before the two sides hold their next negotiation meeting on June 18.

Steven Bromberg, a second-grade teacher who has taught in the district for 12 years, said the lack of a contract makes him feel “devalued.”

“It’s not a financial thing,” said Bromberg, who also serves as the union representative for Deasy elementary school. “It’s more of the district has faith in us to do what we do and how we do it.”

But for high school math teacher Lihong Cheng, the money is an issue.

Cheng, who has been teaching for 15 years, has a daughter in college and a son in high school. He said he has a second job tutoring students after school to make ends meet.

The teachers miss out when they work under expired contract terms, Cheng said, because the cost of living and healthcare continue to go up while any retroactive compensation is minimal.

Education, said Cheng, “is not a business.”

“We’re dealing with children’s lives,” he said. “If we do something wrong, it’s done, it’s permanent, it’s life.”

Not having a contract is demeaning, he said.

“This is not fair to the devoted teachers,” Cheng said.

This first appeared in Newsday.