ITHACA, N.Y. — There was standing room only as teachers carrying picket signs crowded the Ithaca City School District board meeting demanding fair contracts with competitive pay.

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Teachers have been working without updated contracts since August. They spent nearly 40 minutes Tuesday night addressing how the district has some of the lowest paid teachers in the state and how that impacts personnel.

Christopher Carver, an Ithaca High School social studies teacher, said, “I put my resume together for the first time as a result of my New Year’s resolution to sort of reevaluate where I am and it was really hard to do. I was hired with 12 other people…and I’m one of the only ones that are left.”

He’s been with the district six years.

He said that in talking with former ICSD teachers, he’s learned that those employed in surrounding districts — such as the Lansing Central School District or Union Springs Central School District — are paid over $10,000 more at their new jobs.

Jenny Smith, a foreign language teacher at Boynton Middle School, said she has done her own research about people who’ve recently left the district to teach elsewhere.

She said she found that teachers made 12 to 30 percent more when they left the district, which means some are making $14,000 more than they were at ICSD. She’s been with the district 27 years.

Related: “No movement” in Ithaca City School District contract negotiations

Smith and Carver’s comments do not appear to be anecdotal.

According to the Ithaca Teachers Association, first year teachers make less than teachers at 75 percent of districts of a comparable size in New York. Teachers who have been with the district 26-35 years make less than those at 98 percent of other comparable school districts.

President of the ITA Adam Piasecki said earlier in January that about 35 of just over 580 permanent employees have retired or left the district this academic year, leaving vacancies that cannot be filled fast enough.

Several teachers pointed out that a chemistry teacher taking maternity leave beginning Monday still had not been replaced by Tuesday evening.

A person not certified to teach the subject matter at ICSD can likely be found to teach about 90 kids during the maternity leave, but teachers said it will be left to them to help the students and substitute teacher stay up to par in Chemistry.

Previously, an ICSD board member allegedly said statistics about ICSD pay were not accurate.

“If you have different information, cite your sources. Show where that’s coming from. Don’t just make a statement like that because that’s no better than Donald Trump saying our president was not born in the Unites States. He’s sure of that, but he won’t provide evidence,” said Severin Drix, a math teacher at Ithaca High School.

No board members presented information to dispute the facts at the conclusion of the public comments portion of the meeting. Several, however, said they appreciate teachers showing up at the meeting to tell their personal stories about working in the district.

“I think your stories are relevant and meaningful and important,” Board member Jen Curley said. “I can certainly say that you’re valued.”

Board member Brad Grainger agreed saying that contract negotiations are on the “verge of agreement” and that he expects them to be wrapped up for this year.

He said that the contracts have taken months to hash out is not a reflection on the kind of appreciation the district has for teachers.

“That doesn’t mean you’re not appreciated. It just takes time,” he said.

The entire meeting can be watched below:


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Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.