ONEONTA _ The Oneonta school board approved a four-year contract with its eight principals Wednesday that provides a 4.1 percent salary increase in each year.

The agreement was approved without discussion during a meeting at Valleyview Elementary School. Members Andrew Puritz, Susan Hughson, Grace Larkin and Rosalie Higgins voted in favor of the contract. Members Anne Payne and Paul Patterson were absent, and member Jamie Reynolds abstained because he joined the board Wednesday night and wasn't involved in developing the contract.

The principals have been working without a contract since July 1, said Tim Gracy, Oneonta Principals Association president. The approved contract starts with the 2008-09 school year, he said, and under the contract, principals will be paying more toward their health insurance.

The school system has a district principal, four elementary-school principals, a middle-school principal and two principal positions at the high school. School officials said Wednesday the average principal salary is $85,905.

Gracy said negotiating teams have been meeting since spring. He and an attorney for the Empire State Supervisors and Administrators Association met for talks with school Superintendent Michael Shea and Penny Wightman, a school board member who resigned in September. Gracy said he was ``very pleased'' with the agreement, which was a process of give and take, he said.

The Oneonta Principals Contract is in ``about the middle'' of agreements based on ESSAA information that increases have been between 3.8 percent and 4.5 percent in contracts between this and last October, Gracy said.

The Oneonta contract also enhances staff development for principals, he said.

In September 2005, the board approved a three-year contract with its principals. The agreement provided a 4 percent pay raise in each year.

Shea previously said the open board seat needed to be filled because the vacancy period effectively would have been for the school year.

Reynolds, a senior vice president at NBT Bank, replaces Wightman. Reynolds said he hopes his financial background will be helpful to the district, especially during the developing economic trouble statewide highlighted by the governor Wednesday.

``We'll have some interesting decisions to make,'' Reynolds said.

His appointment is effective from Wednesday until May 19, the day of the school board election. Reynolds said it was too early to know if he would run for election to the board but, ``I'm happy to fill the spot.''

Reynolds said he has two daughters, a fourth-grader at Riverside Elementary School and a 5-week-old.

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