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Deer Lakes teachers get 5-year contract, annual pay hike of 4%

| Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, 10:27 p.m.

Deer Lakes School District teachers will receive, on aver­age, a 4.07 percent salary increase per year under a new five-year contract approved Tuesday.

The Deer Lakes Educators Association, representing 141 teachers, nurses and guidance counselors, ratified the contract at a membership meeting at 5 p.m.

The school board followed suit at its 7 p.m. meeting, approving the contract, 5-3.

Voting for the contract were School Directors William Lupone, Louis Buck, Eric Bieniek, Kristi Minnick and Vic Laurenza.

Board members Jodi Banyas-Galecki, Gary Torick and Phillip Ziendarski opposed the contract. Board member Leanna M. Shurina was absent.

According to a news release from Deer Lakes spokesman Jim Cromie, the new agreement is retroactive to July 1, when the last agreement expired.

The starting salary for a teacher with a bachelor's degree is $45,436 while a teacher at the top of the scale this school year with a bachelor's degree will earn $94,108.

A teacher with a master's degree or more and just starting in the district will earn $46,142 per year, while a teacher with the same level of education at the top of the scale will be paid $96,068.

In the 2021-22 school year, the final year of the contract, the starting salary for a new teacher with a bachelor's degree will be $47,703, with those at the top of the scale receiving $97,040.

At the same time, starting teachers with a master's degree or higher will earn $48,009, while those with the same education who are at the top of the scale will make $99,000 annually.

Rising health care costs were again a factor in the negotiation, Cromie said.

The teachers union agreed to incremental increases in their insurance premium payments from 8 percent this school year and rising to 10 percent by the final year of the deal.

Cromie said in addition to the wages and health care items, the contract calls for the teaching day to be lengthened from seven hours and 15 minutes to seven hours and 45 minutes per day with a few exceptions.

This school year, the teachers' work schedule remains at 192 days, but that number will drop to 190 days next year and then decrease to 188 days per year for the final three years of the contract.

Also, the new contract continues to allow teachers the opportunity to voluntarily contribute one of their unused sick days to the district's sick bank to help cover for one of their colleagues should they be forced to miss an extended period of time because of illness.

The district, which is currently contributing 60 days to the sick bank, will cut that number in half by the end of the agreement.

“A lot of people worked very hard to come up with an agreement that was fair to the teachers and the community,” said William Lupone, Deer Lakes School Board president, in a prepared statement. “We now look forward to moving on to the important work of educating our children.”

Attempts to reach Lupone and district spokesman Jim Cromie for additional comments Tuesday were unsuccessful.

“We are pleased to reach what we feel is a reasonable, fair and equitable contract for the school district, our members and the community,” said Kevin Cochran, president of the teachers union. “We look forward to working with the administration to continue to build on the many good things we're already doing by incorporating new technology and training to improve student achievement.”

The last contract between the union and Deer Lakes took more than a year and the threat of a strike to reach.

It was approved in November 2014, following the expiration of the prior agreement in June 2013.

Tom Yerace is a freelance writer. Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4701, brittmeyer@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BCRittmeyer.

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