Rank and file to vote Nov. 20
By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
Details are under wraps, but the Grand Island Board of Education voted 7-0 to ratify a five-year contract agreement with the Grand Island Teachers' Association.
Both Superintendent of Schools Dr. Teresa Lawrence and Grand Island Teachers' Association President Mike Murray declined to discuss the particulars of the contract until the union membership votes later this month.
The GITA was introduced to the contract proposal Tuesday and a vote on it is scheduled for Nov. 20, said Murray. The union had been without a contract for 14 months and had been working under the terms of the old contract.
"I think the rank and file will approve it," Murray said of the contract, which covers from Sept. 1, 2014, to Aug. 31, 2019. "I think it's fair to all sides, and we're going to continue to look forward to working with the district to make this the best school district in Western New York."
Murray was in much better spirits following the Board of Education meeting Monday in the high school Professional Development Room than he was before the June 8 BOE meeting, when teachers and their supporters picketed and then packed the Grand Viking Theater for the meeting. Murray said in June the district had "lost focus on what is important: to establish transparency, improve communication and develop a culture for which all stakeholder groups can come together and be part of the process to move this district forward."
The five months since teachers union members and their supports picketed included a timeout.
"I think both sides had some time to reflect over about a three-month break, and we realized that both parties need to move forward for the betterment of the community. And in the end, we're all in it for the same goal, which is to work together to try and make this a great district and keep it a great district," Murray said Monday.
In saying both sides moved forward, Murray agreed that both sides moved closer, as well.
"I think both sides definitely did meet in the middle, which is what really the definition of negotiations is all about," Murray said. "I think the district and the GITA have always been trying to work together, it's just we were able to finally see eye to eye on some issues, and we narrowed it down to what the most important things are for both sides."
Though he couldn't elaborate on details until the membership votes, Murray said the sides came to an agreement on issues that included salary and health insurance.
"And in the end we want to make sure that this district can continue to hire teachers, and on the other side we have to make sure our members can continue to move forward and make a living," Murray said.