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Thursday, Oct 13, 2011

Berkshire Union Free School District and Teachers Union Ratify Groundbreaking Contract

…Agreement with Berkshire Teachers Association recognizes value of dual-certified teachers.

The Board of Education for the Berkshire Union Free School District has ratified a new teacher contract. The agreement was approved at the district School Board meeting Thursday, October 6, 2011. In announcing the deal, School Board President Timothy Giacchetta said the school district, which primarily serves youth who reside at Berkshire Farm Center’s residential campus in Canaan, New York, looked carefully at the needs of its students as well as its teachers.

"We succeed as a result of a very strong partnership between the school district, our teachers, and our staff," said Giacchetta, who is also the President and CEO of Berkshire Farm Center. "We teach our youth to work together, and it’s important that we do the same."

The school district is keeping its eye on the leading edge of finance reform and with the new agreement is replacing the traditional step-salary schedule for teachers with an end-of-year salary adjustment (provided the school district is financially able), which will become part of the base salary moving forward.

Eighty percent of the students at Berkshire Jr./Sr. High School require special education services, which are considerably costlier than regular education services. State law requires that these students are taught by certified special education teachers. However, they also need teachers who are certified in specific content areas such as math, science, social studies, and English.


Drew Hyde (left) and Bruce Potter (right)
after ratification of agreement.

"We need to recruit highly skilled teachers who are certified as both special education and in specific content areas," said Bruce Potter, the superintendent of Berkshire Union Free School District. "Having teachers who are dually certified is a premium for the school and the students." With that in mind, the new contract calls for an additional $2,000 annual stipend for teachers with dual certification.

Speaking for Berkshire Teachers Association, the district’s teachers union, Drew Hyde said he is pleased with the way the school district worked with them. "The atmosphere and interactions between the school and the teachers has been positive and professional," said Hyde. "We knew we needed to work together and we did just that." Hyde added that the teachers have faith and trust in Bruce Potter and his leadership team. "We look forward to working with them in the future," said Hyde. The union members had approved the new contract earlier by an overwhelming vote.

Berkshire Union Free School District (BUFSD) is a Special Act Public School that does not receive state aid or funding from the area tax base. BUFSD receives its revenue by charging tuition to schools or counties (depending on how the student was referred and placed at BUFSD) for educational services. In order to get referrals, the school must produce positive student outcomes in both academics and behavior. BUFSD is a fully accredited Jr./Sr. high school and is located on the Berkshire Farm Center and Services for Youth’s residential campus in Canaan, New York. Its students present challenges that not all school districts are capable of addressing.

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