School officials fault lack of response from union

HUDSON–After adopting a school budget earlier this year that had been rejected by voters, the Board of Education this week trimmed spending with a $100,000 cut in transportation costs.

The board also settled an action brought by a teacher previously denied tenure.

And another labor-related matter was on the agenda at Monday night’s school board meeting, as district Superintendent Jack Howe spoke about the Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law, a part of state law intended to promote collective bargaining in good faith within a reasonable time frame while preventing employee strikes. The amendment allows employees to receive automatic salary increases during the bargaining, a condition that critics say removes incentives for speedy contract negotiations.

Mr. Howe said that the district’s contract with the Hudson Teachers Association expired four months ago, but he said the bargaining unit did not answer the last two e-mails from the board seeking to schedule a bargaining session. Now those discussions won’t take place until October.

Board member Peter Meyer complained that the HTA was not acting in a reasonable time. Though other employee groups have signed contracts, the teachers’ union has not.

“The union… should be taken to task — if not to court — for their disrespect of the law and taxpayers of this district,” Mr. Meyer said.

A member of the teachers’ bargaining unit attended the meeting but did not comment on the status of the contract or on Mr. Meyer’s statement.

Part of this week’s meeting was taken up with the annual organization process, with the board electing Jeffrey Otty president and Peter Merante, Sr. vice president. Florence Stickles was appointed district treasurer, a position long held by the district’s business manager Daniel Barrett.

Mr. Meyer proposed that the board subtract $100,000 from the transportation line of the school budget. In response to his suggestion the board decided it appoint a transportation task force to determine how to administer the change which was much discussed at the time the original budget passed. The change led to the adoption of a new contingency budget of $49,149,180.

During an executive session at which the board received advice from lawyers, members decided to grant former middle school English teacher Sharon Hart tenure, which she was denied four years ago on the advice of former superintendent Fern Aefsky and former MC Smith School principal Ryan Groat.

Ms. Hart won a $175,000 settlement — $50,000 from the district, the rest from insurance. She is also second on the list for rehiring.

“This is a great victory for justice — Groat and Aefsky were wrong in their recommendation not to grant Hart tenure from the beginning, and the board was wrong in blindly backing them. I applaud Sharon Hart’s courage in standing up to the injustice and fighting this fight for the last four years. We, the district, owe her more than an apology — we owe her a great deal of thanks for standing up for what is right and honorable,” said Mr. Meyer. 

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