YONKERS, N.Y. – The Yonkers School District will restore 24 counselor jobs as part of new agreement with the Yonkers teachers union, which has been operating without a contract since July 2011.
The contract, retroactive to 2011, will also increase teacher salaries by an average of one percent over three years. The contract doesn't change teacher salaries for the 2011-12 school year, but increases them 1.5 percent for 2012-13 and 2013-14.
Under the new contract, teacher starting in 2013 will make $58,639. The top pay grade, which is for a teacher with a doctorate and 15 years of experience, is $130,088.
The salary increases and additional jobs will cost the district about $2 million, said Superintendent of Schools Bernard Pierorazio.
"I think this was a situation where everyone involved realized the dire consequences with coming to an agreement," said Pierorazio. "Just as how the teacher evaluation system is a game changer, the same goes for the teacher contract. It gives stability to our education system, so in the end I would say that everything worked out well."
Patricia Puleo, president of the Yonkers Federation of Teachers, who fought for the contact, which was approved on Jan. 4 by union members, said it's as fair as it could be considering the district's economic state.
"We've lost many counselors, so we're very lucky to be bringing some of them back," said Puleo. "If the economy were doing better, we would love to see higher teacher salary increases to meet the costs of living, because they don't. But in the end, teachers are happy to have their jobs. Yonkers is going through a tough economic situation, so we're all doing the best we can."
"I think the union understood that we were under tough economic times, so they really didn't push for too much," said Pierorazio." "I think getting the counselors back was very important. We want to support our teachers and counselors, and we're going to do that the best we can. We got the union to move for there to be a counselor in each of our academic college centers, which is big."
The contract has 16 counselors coming back by Feb. 1, and the remaining eight by July 1.
There has been a lot of progress, but the Yonkers School District is still down 25 percent of its staff, said Puleo.
"Special education classes were once taught by a science teacher accompanied by a special ed teacher," said Puleo. "Now because of cuts the classes are only taught by the special ed teacher, who is certified, but not in a specific science. That's just one example of how we've been hurt, but the list goes on and on."
The Yonkers School Board will vote on the contract at its Jan. 16 meeting.