Teacher, support staff unions agree to sit down with district

NORWICH – Leaders of the collective bargaining units which represent Norwich’s teachers and support staff have expressed their willingness to discuss reducing contractual pay increases if it will help save jobs.

“We are more than happy to sit down and have that conversation,” said Erika Kwasnik, who serves as president of the Norwich Educators Organization, during a special board of education meeting Wednesday night.

A key factor in the union’s decision to do so, she said, was tied to Superintendent Gerard O’Sullivan’s assurance that the money would be used to save teachers, not items such as extracurricular programs.

“I have been assured by Mr. O’Sullivan that that is the intent,” Kwasnik said.

The union head did stress, however, that the issue was not as “black and white” as it appeared, since forgoing a pay increase could have long-term ramifications in a teacher’s retirement benefits.

Mike Girgenti, president of the Norwich Educational Support Staff Association, echoed some of Kwasnik’s sentiments following the meeting, saying his organization was “absolutely” willing to sit down with district officials to discuss the matter.

During the meeting, the superintendent reviewed the financial impact of raise increase for each category of district employees. A 1 percent increase in total administration payroll, he explained, equates to roughly $7,919. For confidential and managerial staff, that number is $7,498; support staff, $28,903; teachers and professional staff, $105,369. In total, he said, a 1 percent increase in the district’s total $15.1 million payroll increases expenses by $151,490.

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