Following two years of negotiations, the Bridgehampton Board of Education last week approved a new contract with the Bridgehampton Teachers Association, the district’s teachers’ union.
The five-year contract, signed on Monday, May 4, is retroactive to July 1, 2013, and expires on June 30, 2018. The agreement includes a 0.5-percent salary increase for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 fiscal years, and a 0.75-percent increase in 2017-18.
Teachers step increases—an additional, incremental increase in salary for individual teachers based on professional experience—amount to roughly 2 percent annually.
Teachers with enough longevity that they no longer receive step increases will receive an additional annual payment under the agreement. Those who have been employed by the district for 21 to 24 years will receive an additional $650 per year. Those who have been with the district for 25 to 29 years will receive an additional $1,200, and those employed for 30 years or more will receive $1,700 per year.
The memorandum of agreement outlines teachers’ contributions to their individual or family health insurance premiums as well. For the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years, teachers, teaching assistants and nurses agreed to contribute 12 percent of their premiums to that cost. For the 2015-16 school year, the contribution will increase to 14 percent, and then to 16 percent beginning in the 2016-17 year.
The agreement also includes the stipends teachers and staff will receive for covering athletic events, advising after-school clubs and the junior and senior classes, chaperoning trips, and overseeing extracurricular programs.
Negotiations for the new contract began in summer 2013, as the previous contract had expired on June 30 of that year. That contract also took two years to negotiate, and the state assigned a mediator for the discussions after district officials and the Teachers Association reached an impasse in August 2008.
The memorandum of agreement for this new contract was signed by Superintendent Dr. Lois Favre, who is executing it on behalf of the district. Helen Wolfe, David Elliott and Julie Waller signed on behalf of the Bridgehampton Teachers Association.
Ms. Wolfe, the association’s president, had previously appeared before the Board of Education in October, with other teachers, to express her frustration at how the negotiations were going. This week she wrote by email, “The negotiation team is glad the negotiations are over and that an agreement has been reached.”
Last week, the approval of the contract was met with a round of applause from the board at a special meeting following the district’s budget hearing.
“While long, [the negotiations] were an ongoing give and take, and always respectful,” Dr. Favre said later last week. “The lengthening of the time was more due to difficulty getting everyone at the table, more so than any failure to communicate or negotiate.”
School Board President Ron White commended the Bridgehampton School’s teachers and agreed with Dr. Favre that the negotiation process was not ill-spirited.
“[Reaching an agreement] was definitely a breath of fresh air, after the two years. Both sides were very teamwork-oriented and it was just a matter of trying to iron out everything,” he said. “It wasn’t that the board was on one corner and the teachers were on the other. It was a collective movement.
“We’re working to make sure the Bridgehampton School is sustainable and it’s here for a long time, and we don’t overshoot certain things,” Mr. White continued. “I think that both sides understand that, and we were able to come together as a unit to work it all out.”