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Elizabeth Forward board OKs teachers contract

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Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, 4:41 a.m.
 

Elizabeth Forward School District's board of directors voted 7-1 on Monday to approve a three-year contract with the union representing its 185 teachers and other professional employees.

Director Charles Bakewell was the lone no vote. He questioned the status of the district's athletic trainer.

Voting to approve were board president Philip Martell and directors Margaret Morgan, Megan Ferraro, Scott McVicker, Dr. Robert Rhoderick, Mary Scarry and Dorothy Wycoff.

Morgan, who chaired the district's negotiation team, said in a statement that the salary schedule and health insurance contributions were the stumbling blocks to an agreement.

“The (Elizabeth Forward Education Association) has agreed to a salary freeze in the first year of the contract with step movement, which is an increase in salary, in years two and three,” Morgan said. “The salary schedule will remain at the 2012-13 rates throughout the contract except for (the top) step 19.”

“Step 19 is a year or two longer than in surrounding districts,” Solicitor Pat McGrail said. “If a teacher is already there, it's an $1,100 increase (in each year). If not, the teacher gets step movement plus $1,100 (for a year).”

Morgan said the teachers' health care contribution will be 3 percent of the current premium.

The contract is retroactive to Sept. 1 and continues through the 2015-16 school year. It succeeds a five-year pact that expired on Aug. 31.

Director Michael O'Rourke was absent. For Rhoderick and Scarry, it was the last meeting before their terms expire. The board is scheduled to reorganize on Dec. 3.

Education association president Bernice Kirby attended the brief board meeting but declined comment, referring questions to Pennsylvania State Education Association UniServ representative Christine A. Cortazzo.

Cortazzo said in an automated email that she is out of her Pittsburgh office until Dec. 3.

The district's comments about the contract were similar to those Cortazzo made when the two sides approved state fact-finder Jane Minnich's recommendations.

“The Elizabeth Forward Education Association recognizes that the current financial status of the Elizabeth Forward School District is precarious at this time,” Cortazzo said on Oct. 21.

Cortazzo said the teachers gave up protective language that helps to prevent the district from being able to furlough teachers in disciplines such as music, physical education, computers and library.

“The final agreement is not exactly what the fact-finder issued,” McGrail said. “Further negotiations were needed because of some ambiguities.”

One was the status of the athletic trainer. Bakewell questioned the effect of including the trainer in the union's bargaining unit.

“The fact-finder's report was silent as to the athletic trainer,” McGrail said.

Bakewell pressed the issue but Martell cut off the discussion, suggesting it was getting into personnel matters that should go into executive session.

Bakewell said he “agreed in principle” with the contract but did not feel he received enough answers.

Morgan hailed Cortazzo and union officials “for their hard work and willingness to negotiate with the interest of not only their fellow union members but the interest of the financial well-being of the (district).”

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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