Niagara Gazette

Local News

July 20, 2006

Spring break split disputed in Niagara-Wheatfield

Teachers union files grievance accusing district of violating its contract

SANBORN — A change in spring vacation in the Niagara-Wheatfield School District has resulted in a grievance filed by the teachers union — the first in about a decade.

Board of Education members approved the school calendar for 2006-07 following a lengthy executive session Wednesday night. By doing so, they’ve agreed to split up next year’s two-week spring vacation instead of having it all in the month of April.

The new schedule calls for a week off in February and a week off in April — a change that violates the teachers union’s contract which states members will be given two consecutive weeks off around the Easter holiday.

“The teachers are disappointed that the board decided to violate our contract,” union President Darlene Fegatilli said Thursday afternoon. “We have already started the grievance process.”

School Superintendent Judith Howard said the decision to split the spring break was made to comply with the new schedule adopted recently by the Niagara/Orleans Board of Cooperative Educational Services. Since the district has hundreds of students utilizing BOCES site services and other programs, it didn’t make sense to have different vacations.

“We’re doing what’s best for kids and making sure our vocational educational students are not harmed educationally,” Howard said, adding the old vacation schedule also would negatively affect N-W students bused to private and parochial schools. “The board respects the work of the teachers, but they felt the hardship of the students outweighed keeping the break the teachers wanted, since technically they’re not being asked to work any longer.”

Fegatilli said the teachers understand the arguments behind splitting the vacation — a lot of them are in favor of the change — but it violates the language in the union’s contract, which doesn’t expire for another two years.

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