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This week, president and chief negotiator for the Ithaca Teachers Association (ITA) Adam Piasecki signed a tentative agreement with the Ithaca City School District that will increase teacher payroll by more than 27 percent over the term of the contract.

Highlights of the unprecedented six-year labor agreement include: expanded employee health insurance benefits; increased stipends paid to teachers for extra duties; additional tuition-free slots in ICSD schools for children of teachers who live outside of the district; and targeted flat-rate pay increases in the first, third and fifth years of the contract.

"Flat-rate raises allow for a greater percentage of the payroll increases to flow to teachers on the lower end of the salary scale," said Robert Van Keuren, chief negotiator for the ICSD. "Both the ITA and district were in agreement that these flat rate increases will help the district retain current staff and remain competitive in the market for newer teachers."

"The Board of Education recognizes the competitive market for top educators requires a competitive compensation package," said ICSD Board Member Brad Grainger. "This contract will increase payroll 27 percent over six years. While aggressive, it is needed to assure continued recruitment of the best educators in New York. The budget will be stretched to meet these contracts, but Ithaca residents have indicated support for our teaching professionals."

The ICSD also recently reached a six-year collective bargaining agreement with ESP/I that includes yearly pay increases of three or four percent for all paraprofessionals, including teacher aides and teaching assistants, and protects health care benefits.

ICSD Superintendent Dr. Luvelle Brown stated, "The collaborative conversations with the leadership of our two largest bargaining units have been fruitful and resulted in agreements that are consistent with our school district's compensation strategy. The length and pay increases associated with these new contracts are noteworthy."

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