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Pine-Richland teachers reject, board approves fact-finding report

| Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The Pine-Richland Education Association rejected a fact-finding report in its negotiations with district officials, after the school board approved it.

The report was released March 13 after the union's decision March 12.

The school board voted 8-0 at the planning meeting last week to approve the report, with board member Therese Dawson absent.

Various issues are in dispute, according to the report issued by fact-finder Michelle Miller-Kotula on March 3, including total days to be worked per year, a retirement program, long-term substitutes' access to health care and salaries.

Dan Cary, a UniServ representative for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, which is affiliated with the local union, said the teachers voted to reject the report for a few reasons. The fact-finder's recommendation froze pay for teachers at the top of the salary schedule for the length of the contract, increased how much teachers would contribute for health insurance and removed an early-retirement incentive proposed by the union, he said.

Those recommendations are “fundamentally unfair” to teachers at the top of the schedule, Cary said.

“We felt there was a need to go back and bargain better for those people at the top of the scale,” he said.

District officials proposed a five-year contract with an average salary increase of 2.75 percent each year and full retroactivity to July 2012, while the teachers union sought a 5-percent increase per year with the understanding that an adjusted salary schedule would be agreed upon by both parties, according to the report.

Miller-Kotula's report recommended to set annual pay at $41,798 for a teacher with a bachelor's degree at the first step on the salary schedule and pay of $95,650 for a teacher with a doctorate at the top step of the salary schedule.

The union represents about 335 teachers.

Pine-Richland teachers have been working under the provisions of a contract that expired in June 2012. The two sides will vote again by March 23, in case either has reconsidered.

If it is accepted by the district and the teachers union after the second round of voting, a new contract will be put in place.

“The district is hopeful that the parties will be able to accept the fact-finding report at that time and, in the process, reach a contract settlement that will provide stability for the district,” Pine-Richland spokeswoman Rachel Hathhorn said in a statement.

The fact-finding report can be accessed on the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board website under fact-finding reports.

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or rfarkas@tribweb.com.

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