Lawrence School District unions seek fair new deals

LTA and Local 2337 want increases and other changes


The Lawrence Board of Education agreed to a new contract in principal with the Educational Secretaries Association as the trustees approved the memorandum of agreement with the union on Feb. 12. The ESA had ratified the agreement three days earlier.

That leaves two district unions without a new contract. The Lawrence Teachers Association that represents nearly 280 members, including librarians, speech therapists and social workers, and Local 237 that represents roughly 140 employees such as aides, audio-visual, bus attendants, claims auditors, cleaners, information techs, maintainers, mail people, nurses, and teacher assistants.

Without a new agreement for nearly seven years, the LTA and district have gone toe-to-toe on more than a few issues. The latest battle is over the July 2017 fact-finder’s report. The union endorsed the recommendation, the board rejected it.

Negotiations remain at an impasse, and the LTA filed an improper practice with the Public Employees Review Board charge against the BOE in January.

Since the city of Buffalo settled with its teachers in 2016 after 12 years, Lawrence is now the longest running contract negotiations in the state. The next step could be super conciliation — mediation. But it is not mandatory.

Lori Skonberg, president of the LTA, previously said to break the impasse, “the board needs to be flexible with it work-rule concession demands,” agree to some of the union’s proposals and “offer a wage increase.”

Salary increases for the length of a contract is what Ben Carenza, the Long Island area director for Local 237 said he is aiming for his constituents. The most recent agreement went into effect in 2007 and expired last year.

Carenza spoke at the Feb. 12 and demonstrated that he was upset that his people were not being taken of by the district. He later told the Herald that he sees the administrators in Lawrence and other districts receiving raises and just wants what’s fair for his union members.

“All the administrators here got raises, we got nothing, it’s not fair,” he said, also pointing to raises received by administrators in the Brentwood School District. “We are looking for a fair and equitable raise based on the Consumer Price Index. A one-shot deal doesn’t help.”

The secretaries will receive bonus payments for four years of the five year deal and $1,000 bonus in 2022. Also included was flex hours, where the employees can get two- or three-hour blocks of time to do what they need to do, and they make it up throughout the months.

“Many of the [district’s bargaining] units have done excellent if you are willing to work with the system, we’ll work with you,” said Jeremy Feder, the assistant superintendent for Operations and Business in Lawrence. “We are ready to pull the trigger on a deal. We are ready to sit at the table,” he added, regarding Local 237.

Feder said that the average maintainer, a person who does repairs across the district, earns $75,000 to $78,000 per year and added costs such as insurance and other benefits raises the compensation package to $120,000. “The LTA and Local 237, we would very much like a deal with them,” he said.

The next Lawrence board meeting is on March 12, at 8 p.m., at Lawrence Middle School, at 185 Broadway, in Lawrence. The proposed 2018-19 budget will be discussed.