The Upper Perkiomen Education Association (UPEA) is set to begin the 2013-14 school year Monday without a contract. But both association officials and Upper Perkiomen School District administrators were adamant that won’t equate to any problems for students or parents.
“This is the first time we’ve started a school year without a contract, but we are very committed to not letting our contract status disrupt any of the things we do for the kids or the community,” said UPEA President Bob LaSalle on Monday. “There was a lot of public unrest this past spring with rumors and concerns about program cuts. We don’t want the community to be concerned that this process would be a cause for disruption.”
The UPEA contract expired June 30. The UPEA has never gone on strike, said Upper Perk Business Administrator Sandy Kassel. She also noted, in her 30-plus years with the district, she can’t remember the association starting a school year without a contract either.
While LaSalle said the progress of negotiations with the Upper Perkiomen School Board has likely been slower than either side would like, the two groups are still working toward resolution.
He said the UPEA has met with the board a few times over the summer and is making progress.
“We plan to meet later this week, and we’ll see where we are after that,” he said.
The district’s more than 3,200 students are also the focus of Superintendent Dr. Beth Yonson.
“Our teachers are true professionals and that I have every confidence that they will continue to provide an excellent education for our students. I am excited the teachers are back and look forward to the students’ arrival next Monday.
“In the past year and a half, I have come to appreciate the talents and dedication of our teachers, administrators and support staff. I look forward to continue working side by side with my staff,” she said, acknowledging this week’s work by staff on student-centered classrooms, active learning and incorporating new technologies that aid the learning process.
“I’m pleased the teachers are willing to go back to school without a contract for the benefit of the kids in the district,” said Brenda Koeder of East Greenville. Koeder, who has three students in Upper Perk schools, added that many parents would have trouble finding child care, among other issues, if teachers chose to strike.
The last UPEA contract negotiated in 2010 translated to a 3 percent salary increase in 2010-11, 3.3 percent in 2011-12 and a salary freeze for 2012-13. Teachers also agreed to contribute additional monies toward medical expenses.