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OCSD approves raises for teachers, administrators

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The Ogdensburg City School Board of Education approved salary increases for the district’s teachers, administrators and superintendent Monday.

Board of Education members unanimously approved a 2013 to 2017 contract with the district’s teachers’ union, the Ogdensburg Education Association, that includes salary increases of 2.53 percent in 2014-2015, 2.43 percent in 2015-2016, and 2.68 percent in 2016-2017. The teachers’ salaries increased by 2.96 percent for the 2013-2104 school year.

Health insurance contributions by teachers will also increase steadily. Teachers will pay 5 percent of their health insurance in 2013-2014, 5.5 percent in 2014-2015, 6 percent to 2015-2016 and 6.5 percent in 2016-2017.

“To vote for a raise at this time economically, kind of bothers me,” board member James P. King said. “But I considered the following, when I reached my decision: the OEA suffered the biggest losses with their staff. We’ve lost nearly 30 teaching positions. Basically with the loss of teachers, some of the classroom sizes have increased. I also saw three teachers in Wal-Mart buying school supplies. I see them spending their own money, and I think that deserves a little bit of a raise.”

The school board also approved salary increases for the district’s administrators.

Supervisors will see an increase by 2.75 percent in 2014-2015, 2.96 percent in 2015-2016, and 2.68 percent in 2016-2017. Administrators did not receive a raise in the 2013-2014 school year.

The school board voted 9 to 1 in favor of the raises for administrators. Mr. King opposed the increases.

“With this raise proposal — don’t get me wrong, I think the administrators have done a great job — but with every district suffering budget shortfalls, I don’t think it’s really warranted at this time,” Mr. King said. “Over the past few months the board has convened several times, and one of the biggest topics is the extreme financial stress on the Ogdensburg City School District within the last few weeks.”

School Board Vice President Michael J. Tooley disagreed with Mr. King. He said that while the amount of administrators has decreased, their workload has increased.

“I would suggest we have fewer administrators than we had two years ago,” Mr. Tooley said. “The raise coincides with a reasonable cost of living increase.”

Administrators also pay the most in health insurance in the district, along with the Superintendent, Board President Ronald N. Johnson said. For the 2013 to 2014 school year, administrators’ contributions are 12 percent. That number is set to increase to 13 percent for the 2014-2015, 2015-2016, and 2016-2017 school years.

The district also approved a raise for Superintendent Timothy M. Vernsey in a vote of 9 to 1. His salary will increase by 2.75 percent in 2014-2015, 2.96 percent in 2015 to 2016, and 2.68 percent in 2016-2017. His salary did not increase in 2013- 2014. Mr. King disagreed with the increase.

“While, I respect you Mr. Vernsey, you have come into this room and stated that this is a personal issue with all the budget cuts, and to then have your salary increase from 133,000 to 145,000, I don’t understand that,” Mr. King said. “I don’t understand how we can say one thing and turn around and ask for money.”

Mr. Vernsey responded to Mr. King by saying that he could not debate his “worth” in public.

“The Board of Education determines my contract and my salary structure,” Mr. Vernsey said. “I will accept what the Board of Education gives me.”

Mr. Johnson said Monday after the meeting that he did not immediately know Mr. Vernsey’s salary, but said that the gradual increase in salary was reasonable.

“We, as a board, thought it was a good idea to extend this contract just like all the other contracts for planning purposes,” Mr. Johnson said. “We tried to treat him as fairly as anybody else in the district. He is also contributing a lot to his health insurance. He also is one of the few administrators who have taken a zero the first year, and I believe, once or twice after that.”

Mr. Vernsey will pay 13 percent of his healthcare contributions in 2013-2014. That number will increase by one percent each year until the contract is up for renewal in 2017.

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