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Utica School Administrators ratify new contact, negotiations to resume following teacher contract defeat in Utica

By JOLEEN FERRIS

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Utica City School Administrators ratified their new contract Tuesday, which means wage freezes and agreeing to the state evaluation system, which Superintendent Bruce Karam says would bring the district $10 million in state aid.

However, that aid is contingent on the Utica Teachers' Association ratifying its own contract. Negotiations are ongoing for the Utica Teachers' Association after a contract was voted down on Monday night 469 to 328.

Utica Teachers Association President Larry Custodero said that a majority of "in favor" votes came from the secondary and middle schools, but that many "opposed" votes came from the elementary school employees. Custodero said he believed that was because the district's negotiations team did not have restoration of full day kindergarten as a top priority.

Passage would have meant enough savings to save 100 of 217 district jobs currently on the chopping block, plus secure $3.8 million in operating aid and $6 million in building aid from the state. The governor has tied that aid to passage of an agreement on how to implement teacher evaluations. That agreement was part of the contract the Utica Teachers Association defeated Monday.

Defeated is an accurate way to describe how Utica School Superintendent Bruce Karam felt on Tuesday, the day his fellow administrators vote on their contract. Passage of both the teachers and administrator union contracts is necessary to secure that nearly $10 million in state aid.

Karam says that every passing day without an agreement makes makes it tougher to guarantee a smooth opening for the first day of classes in the fall.

"You can't wait 'til June, July, then try to schedule one hundred more teachers across the district, then be expected to have everything ready for a smooth opening in September. This is what's going to hurt us logistically," says Karam.

The superintendent says there are options, although none of them necessarily appealing. One is to put that nearly $10 million in state aid in the budget, but not spend it until both unions ratify contract agreements.

Custodero said Monday night he'd release the exact numbers of the vote that defeated the budget. As of this writing, he has not returned our call.

He also said Monday night that both sides would resume negotiations immediately. As of late Tuesday morning, the superintendent had not heard from him.

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