Short, Not Sweet, Montauk School Board Meeting

A group of Montauk School teachers attended a school board meeting on Tuesday, as they did two weeks ago, to argue that they were working without a contract. They wore the same black T-shirts reading “Montauk Teachers Association” that they wore at the earlier board meeting, at which they encouraged the board to continue to negotiate.

On Tuesday, Dr. Laura Schilling, the president of the teachers association, read a statement reporting that the teachers’ negotiating team was to meet with Mike Krauthamer, their labor specialist, this week to review recent communications with the district’s attorney. She said the teachers were happy that the board had budgeted a $5,000 increase in the superintendent’s salary for next year, but added: “We continue to work without a contract since June 30, 2015. The message conveyed is that you do not value us, and you do not wish to compensate us in a manner that is reasonable and reflective of the budget that is being proposed.”

Jack Perna, the superintendent, quickly jumped in to say he would take a $5,000 wage freeze as he did this year, but before he could finish speaking, the teachers got up and left.

In a statement, Diane Hausman, the board president, argued that the teachers were not working without a contract because “all salaries and benefits of the existing contract, including health insurance and substantial pension contributions, continue to be paid to teachers until modified by a successor contract.” In addition, she pointed out, a majority of the teachers receive a minimum $2,700 increase annually under the step schedule of the existing contract.

Saying the board “absolutely values” the teaching staff and recognizes its value to the students and community, Ms. Hausman said the board had negotiated in earnest with the teachers union for more than 14 months in an attempt to reach a fair and equitable settlement on a four-year contract, while at the same time keeping in mind the board’s fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers. Specific details were not forthcoming.

“We’re doing our best to work this out,” Mr. Perna said.