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Allegheny

After 19 months of negotiations, Pittsburgh Public Schools OKs union contracts

Natasha Lindstrom
| Wednesday, April 18, 2018, 10:09 p.m.
Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet
Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet

The 19-month bargaining impasse that nearly led Pittsburgh Public Schools teachers to strike for the first time in more than 40 years officially ended Wednesday night.

The district's school board approved the three-year union contracts for teachers and support staff that the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers overwhelmingly approved last week.

Superintendent Anthony Hamlet acknowledged the final contracts reflect "give and take on both sides."

"When we began this process so many months ago, we had different ideas on several details, yet shared a common goal: to create a contract that is fair to all — taxpayers, teachers, the district, the community — but above all, places the students at the very top of that list," Hamlet said in a statement Wednesday night. "It took some time to get there, but this agreement does just that."

Hamlet said he expects the new contracts — in effect through June 30, 2020 — to help reduce teacher turnover and improve school stability.

"Teachers will get a wage package that makes our district more competitive for new hires and in retaining talent, as well as a formidable health insurance and benefits plan," Hamlet said. "The new contract also addresses teachers' concerns with early childhood educators as much as possible, given the limitations of this grant-funded program."

Among major changes: The district is scrapping a performance-based pay system, giving all its teachers at least a 2 percent raise and paying its least experienced teachers as much as 15 percent more per year. Early childhood educators will get 2 percent annual raises, which isn't as much as the union had wanted.

"We really focused on the new teachers," Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, which represents about 3,000 teachers and support staff, told the Trib last week. "A lot of money was put at the bottom of the salary schedule because we want to attract the best and the brightest in Pittsburgh."

One sticking point came up over increasing the authority for principals to reassign teachers. The compromise involves limiting how many reassignments can happen over certain time periods and gives teachers a formal process to appeal an involuntary transfer.

"There is no question that the negotiations were, at times, contentious," Board President Regina Holley said in a statement. "That is the nature of collective bargaining. But just as steel is forged through the intense heat of blast furnaces, our public schools will emerge stronger for the process."

A little more than 2,000 union members voted on the contracts, which were approved by 90 percent of teachers, 90 percent of paraprofessionals and 77 percent of technical and clerical employees.

Click here for more details on the final contracts.

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514, nlindstrom@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.

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