Crediting Scheinman Institute Executive Director Rocco Scanza with allowing both parties to hit the “reset” button for negotiating, the Ithaca Teachers Association and the Ithaca Board of Education have agreed to a contract.
The one-year pact resulted from Scanza’s work as a neutral mediator facilitating the collective bargaining process, the union said.
Scanza, a member of the New York State Public Employment Relations Board Panel of Mediators and Arbitrators, has mediated other negotiation impasses in Tompkins County and surrounding counties.
“The mediation was conducted in a highly politicized environment with several teachers’ rallies taking place within the city,” Scanza said. “Although the parties disagreed on multiple issues, the mediation focused on health care plans, employee contributions to health care and teacher salaries.”
The parties met 12 times in 2015 before declaring impasse, said Scanza, who then facilitated seven mediation sessions. The first and last meetings were joint sessions with district and teacher representatives.
In the final mediation session, the parties agreed to a new one-year contract, conditional on agreement to a facilitated negotiation process to begin within 60 days of union ratification of the new proposal.
The contract was approved this month by the teachers’ union and the school board.
At the heart of bargaining, the union and board disagreed over teacher salaries in comparison to other districts, with the union stating that the Ithaca teachers’ median salary of $51,000 ranks 579 out of 667 school districts in New York state.
The union said pay disparities increase with length of service, and Ithaca teachers pay a higher proportion of health care costs when compared to other districts.
According to Scanza, by stipulation of the negotiating parties, the Scheinman Institute’s Bargaining for Better Schools project will be a tool used during the facilitated negotiations process.