After Two Years, Bridgehampton Teacher Contract Is Approved

After working without a contract for nearly two school years, teachers in Bridgehampton have a new contract following a 5-0 vote by the school board on May 6.

The contract is retroactive to July 2013 and runs through the 2017-18 school year. It includes cost-of-living increases of 0.5 percent in 2015-16 and 2016-17 and 0.75 percent in 2017-18. The teachers currently pay 12 percent of their health insurance premiums, but that will shift to 14 percent and then 16 percent over the next two years.

The contract also says both parties will begin to negotiate the new job evaluation process as soon as the new state regulations are made clear to school districts. Changes to the review process were included in the education reform package pushed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. The state budget attempted to have standardized test scores make up 50 percent of teacher evaluations, but after large numbers of students refused to take those state tests last month, it is unclear how soon the state will implement its new policy.

In Bridgehampton, more than 20 percent of students in grades three to eight refused the tests in English language arts and mathematics given in April.

According to Lois Favre, Bridgehampton's superintendent, the negotiation process was lengthy due only to "the difficulty of getting the players at the table" and not because of any major problems along the way. Both parties negotiated in good faith, she said.

"Having a contract in place immediately improves the morale and tone in the school," Ms. Favre said. "Teachers feel supported."

"The negotiations committee is happy that negotiations are over and the contract is settled," said Helen Wolfe of the Bridgehampton Teachers Association.

While one school board member, Lillian Tyree-Johnson, initially moved to approve the contract as part of a consent agenda last week, Jennifer Vinski, another board member, asked that it be voted on individually. "This is a big deal," Ms. Vinski said during the meeting.

Two board members, Doug DeGroot and Larry LaPointe, were absent at the time of the vote, which took place during a special meeting that started at approximately 7:45 p.m. The meeting's start time had been published in two different ways: on the school's web page as "immediately following the public hearing," and on the agenda with an 8 p.m. start time. The public hearing on the budget, which was attended by most of the school board, two reporters, and one member of the general public, began at 7 p.m. and lasted about 40 minutes.