Concluding an extended process that had strained relations with teachers and professional staff, the Palisades School District ratified a new, 5-year contract for them Wednesday night. The action, taken by a 7-0-2 vote by the district’s board of school directors, ended the staff voluntarily working under the terms of an expired contract since last July.
As is customary with personnel matters in municipal and education government, no details of the negotiations with the Palisades Education Association (PEA) were made public at the meeting. The two abstentions were by directors Bob Musantry and Scott Freeman, who, while not barred from voting on the matter due to the status of their wives as teachers in the district, nevertheless preferred not to.
“I couldn’t be happier,” said Director Sylvia LeBlanc, who served on the board’s negotiating committee, along with committee chair Director James Hallowell, and Director James Ott.
After noting some examples of teacher names often coming up “consistently and organically” as “woven into the fabric” of their students’ childhood, she concluded “I’m proud of our board for coming together for their investment in our teachers, which is an investment in our children.”
She also characterized the negotiations as “long and twisty,” and delayed by matters that were “no fault of our own,” such as insurance details, while teachers continued their diligence with students both before and after class, summarizing “no one gave less than 100 percent throughout it all.”
Director Shari VanderGast echoed “it is our students that ultimately win when we have a healthy contract,” while Director Cora Landis said “the numbers were more than I had hoped for,” but that professional staff’s extraordinary efforts during the height of the COVID crisis were especially worthy of recognition.
In a related matter last September, with no particular purpose noted other than pursuing basic fiduciary responsibility, the district re-convened an ad hoc committee charged with reviewing district staffing, school building capacities, and district enrollment trends. The last such effort, during 2016-2017, did not result in any major changes in staffing levels, or the use of the five school buildings.
The minutes of the committee’s Dec. 12 meeting noted that “this committee is not recommending going from five buildings to four buildings,” and that it was recommending “to remain status quo with current building configuration.” Committee chair Director Freeman said at the Dec. 21 full board meeting that a further report was scheduled for the Jan. 18 full board meeting. All minutes of committee meetings and full board meetings are posted on the district website.