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Scarsdale Forum Offers Suggestions On Next Teacher Contract

Scarsdale Forum President Dan Hochvert introduces the Education Committee co-chairs.
Scarsdale Forum President Dan Hochvert introduces the Education Committee co-chairs. Photo Credit: Zak Failla

SCARSDALE, N.Y. – With the contract between the Scarsdale Board of Education and the Scarsdale Teachers Association ending in June, the Education Committee of the Scarsdale Forum has made three recommendations for negotiating the next agreement.

The suggestions seek to maintain the district’s quality, while finding ways to control teacher salaries by managing health-care costs and contract lengths. Teacher salaries in Scarsdale should be reduced to be closer to other local districts with similar performances, the committee said.

Co-chairs Mary Beth Evans and Carol Stix offered the recommendations at the Scarsdale Forum meeting Thursday night to unanimous support from members.

“Our process this year made extensive use of the Internet and everyone had a chance to review background materials before the first of our two meetings,” Stix said. “Everybody had an opportunity to express their point of view, so when we came together, we were able to raise a consensus.”

As part of the current contract, teachers can earn pay bumps several ways. A negotiated schedule of salary “step” increases are based on teacher experience, accolades and education, along with annual cost of living adjustments, or COLAs.

Because Scarsdale attracts educators who have experience and master’s degrees, a disconnect has developed with nearby districts. According to the committee, other areas have reduced COLAs, postponed or frozen step advances and cut step increments, which members hope the board will consider.

“We ask the board to go through the whole contract to find options for maintaining and enhancing Scarsdale schools while maintaining prudent management,” Evans said.

The increased cost to health-care benefits have challenged all sectors of the country’s economy, and Scarsdale is no exception. In 1988, the district moved from a traditional Empire-insured health plan to a self-insured, “user-pay” model, which has saved more than $7 million, but further cuts are still needed.

The committee recommended that the board seek to further lower health-care costs. As teachers earn higher salaries each year, they increase their co-pays, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses to keep pace with the rising costs, the panel said.

Due to the uncertain economy and health-care plan options, the committee also endorsed shorter contracts for teacher, which would also maintain greater flexibility and stability.

“Traditionally, the board made contracts between three and five years. We think they should look at the shorter side of that to maintain future flexibility,” Evans said. “Given some of the current conditions, flexibility might be a more attractive option."

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