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Columbia Spectator Staff

For the first time since May 2003, teachers entered New York City classrooms this morning with a contract. The contract, which was agreed upon by the United Federation of Teachers and the city in early October, was ratified yesterday evening with 63 percent of the members voting yes.

Lori Calmbacher, BC '05 and a fifth grade teacher in the South Bronx, said that she voted for the contract after speaking to veteran teachers.

"They weren't satisfied with all the provisions but it was a step in the right direction," she said.

The contract includes a 15 percent pay increase over 52 months starting retroactively from Dec. 1, 2003, and the creation of a "lead teacher position"-who will offer professional guidance to fellow teachers and receive an extra $1,000 a year.

Whether or not a provision extending the work day for 30 minutes will be effective may have contributed to the 32,144 who voted against the contract.

It was, "the misunderstanding about the increase in time" that concerned teachers most, said Lisa Wilson, the union representative at P.S. 75.

Randi Weingarten, president of the UFT, said that she hopes to address some of those concerns in the upcoming months.

"With ratification behind us," she said, "we are focused on working to make sure that these contract changes, particularly the time changes, will be implemented fairly with a focus on the needs of our 1.1 million students and the faculty that educates them."

Though UFT Press Secretary Stuart Marques said that there was no political motive behind the timing of today's vote, which came four days before the mayoral election, Weingarten's statement had political undertones.

"Despite being demoralized and treated with disrespect," she said, teachers "have rolled up their sleeves and produced record results with our students-results the mayor is running on."

Democratic mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer's campaign also drew attention to the proximity of the election and the ratification. "Our teachers went for years without a contract-and only got one once election time rolled around," a campaign spokeswoman said in a statement.

Mayor Bloomberg, however, avoided mentioning the election. "I am pleased that the UFT has ratified a new contract; it is good for teachers, the City, and most importantly, our school children," he wrote. "We look forward to working together [with the UFT] and continuing the improvement of our public schools."Teac