The Upper Perkiomen School Board and the Upper Perkiomen Education Association (UPEA) signed a three-year contract Thursday night that was heralded as “fair” and a “compromise.”
The board passed the agreement in a 7-2 vote, with school board directors Rob Pepe and Bill Scott casting votes against the measure.
Scott, who voted last as board president after verifying a passing count, said after the meeting he thought there were things in the contract that he thought the district should walk have been able to walk away with.
District Business Administrator Sandy Kassel said educators will see a 2.05 percent salary increase the first year (2013-14) a freeze for 2014-15 and a 2.08 percent increase for 2015-16. The increases are being applied to the salary scale under which teachers are paid based on education and experience levels; so each teacher will see varying increases in pay.
The freeze in 2014-15 equals out to a .45 percent increase because teachers at the top of their pay scale, who won’t receive any more pay in years one and three of the contract, will get a $1,000 bump in pay that year.
The increases equate to an average of 1.5 percent per year.
Scott said the district also reduced its health care costs as the teachers’ health plan changed to “one more in line with Obamacare.” Their previous plan was considered a “Cadillac” health plan, Scott said.
According to UPEA President Bob LaSalle, teachers will contribute 12 percent of their premium costs this year and next and will pay 13 percent in 2014-15.
LaSalle said as for time off, teachers will add an additional personal day in 2014-15 and an additional day of bereavement leave for immediate family and will be allowed to use an additional sick day to care for immediate family.
He went on to say reimbursement for teachers taking graduate courses will be reduced once the teacher obtains his or her Master’s degree.
Under advisement to pass the contract agreement by both Scott and Director Jeff Feirick, who both served on the negotiation team with Directors Rob Pepe and Raeann Hofkin, board officials said they felt good about the terms.
“The negotiation team held 34 meetings during that time there were some very hard decisions made and some very hard things for this board to recognize but also the teachers recognized some very hard facts also,” Scott said. “There was never a doubt among this board we have a great teaching staff and we were always here to do what was right for the community that elected this board.
“Both sides feel we have a fair agreement. There are things each one of us on this board would have liked to see done differently but in the end we have achieved what we all set out to do.”
Director Harry Quinque agreed.
“For me the process was a real testament to the character of both groups. When things get tough as they do in negotiations, it would have been easy to give up and say ‘we’re done.’ Look at Washington. But they didn’t. They came up with a fair, compromised agreement.”
After the vote, Superintendent Dr. Beth Yonson recognized both the board and the teachers for all their hard work.
“I’d like to thank all my teachers,” she noted. “It’s very difficult to work without a contract and you were of the highest caliber. You showed such professionalism and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
LaSalle said the contract was met by teachers with mixed emotions; especially given they voluntarily took a pay freeze for last year.
“I think people were hopeful that they could expect a better settlement this time around. That just wasn’t the case...The bottom line, though, is that it passed. And it passed because the people we have here are just an incredible bunch of people. They didn’t want this to be a prolonged process like we’ve seen in Phoenixville, Neshaminy and Hatboro-Horsham. No one wanted a strike. The people here want to be with their students in their classrooms doing everything they can to make every kid shine.
“Overall the contract isn’t good, but it isn’t bad. There are concessions that will help the district financially in the three biggest areas of expense: salary, benefits and tuition reimbursement. Personally, I feel that we put forward the best deal we were going to get from the board at this time. It allows us to move forward and continue to make great strides as a school district.”