By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
The union representing Grand Island teachers and the Grand Island Central School District Board of Education have agreed on a five-year contract.
At Monday's Grand Island Board of Education meeting, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Teresa Lawrence announced the agreement, which ends August 2019. The Board of Education approved the contract at its Nov. 9 meeting, and Lawrence said Monday that the Grand Island Teachers Association members "overwhelmingly approved the contract proposal as well" at a meeting held Nov. 20.
GITA President Mike Murray said Nov. 9, after the school board approved the contract, that the agreement was "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."
Lawrence said three major bargaining units have come to agreements.
"Upon my arrival, the board charged me to work toward increasing employee contributions as a major factor in any upcoming contract settlements. In the 30 months that I've been here, three contracts have been settled: Central office administrators, the administrators group and, most recently, the teachers group. These agreements are fair, affordable and allow the district long-range planning," Lawrence said.
Lawrence stated the percentage of employee contributions to health insurance at the end of each contract was 15 percent for central office administrators, 13 percent for the administrators group, and "just shy of 10 percent" for the teachers.
"These levels of contribution show the tremendous commitment our employees have to the organization and their understanding of the current fiscal stress we face," Lawrence said.
"This contract makes an investment in teacher leaders by reinstating, and in some cases newly establishing, grade-level department chairs. Included also is an incentive for GITA members who choose not to participate in the district's insurance program," she said.
Lawrence pointed out the board had elected not to vote favorably on a contract extension presented to them June 10, 2013. "The recently agreed upon settlement between the district and GITA comes at a greater cost savings to the district than the one presented to them that evening," she said.
"On behalf of the board, I'd like to thank everyone who worked together on reaching these agreements," Lawrence said.