Disagreement on holiday to lead to no school in New Britain - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Disagreement on holiday to lead to no school in New Britain

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President Abraham Lincoln. (MGN/Alexander Gardner photo) President Abraham Lincoln. (MGN/Alexander Gardner photo)

A labor union and New Britain school officials were unable to reach an agreement about Lincoln's birthday, so there will be no school on Feb. 13.

According to the contract, Local 1186 American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 4 - AFL-CIO members have Lincoln's birthday as an official holiday.

The day itself, however, falls on Sunday, Feb. 12. As a result, school officials said the official observance is on Monday, Feb. 13. The Monday is a day off for custodians, maintenance staff, secretaries and nurses in the district. 

"They're an integral part of our team and our buildings really can't function without them there," New Britain superintendent Nancy Sarra said. 

New Britain superintendent Nancy Sarra said over the past several years, the union's members have understood that New Britain's school district has observed Lincoln's birthday a week later to coincide with the long President's Day weekend.

This academic year, no memorandum was signed about that, Sarra said. That meant that the union elected to celebrate the birthday on Feb. 13.

"They went ahead and published their own calendar, assuming our members would agree to that," Larry Dorman, who is the spokesman for Council 4, said. "But, we had never agreed to it because we had never been approached."

Dorman represents the nearly 200 union members and these members were blindsided by the change.

"I think the situation could have been avoided with a little more communication," Dorman said. 

"Unfortunately, neither side brought this to the table during negotiations, yet we were both aware of the issue through requests from administration and a signed memorandum of understanding from the union for the last several years," Sarra said. "They have always agreed to adjust Lincoln's birthday to meet the calendar needs of the district."

Sarra said that if they held school that day, the district would be forced to pay union workers just under $70,000 in personnel costs.

"It's not prudent to spend taxpayer dollars this way," she said. "Due to this, we have decided to make this change in the school calendar. We understand that this may be a hardship for some of our working families but also understand our commitment to our residents to be fiscally responsible."

Sarra said the canceled day will be made up at the end of the school year.

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