Penn-Trafford, union reach tentative deal to avoid outsourcing jobs
By Chris Foreman
Published: Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, 2:12 p.m.
Paraprofessionals, custodians and secretaries in the Penn-Trafford School District would be protected from outsourcing proposals for three years under a tentative labor agreement that the school board will consider for approval next month.
As a concession, the 88 employees have agreed to a wage freeze in the second year of the new three-year deal. If the board approves the contract, the employees will receive raises of 30 cents per hour in the first and third years.
The school board has Oct. 7 and 14 meetings scheduled.
An official with the Service Employees International Union 32BJ said the biggest victory in the proposed contract is the preservation of the 38 paraprofessional positions, which the union says the district wanted to outsource to a private agency to save money.
Paraprofessionals — such as personal care assistants who work individually with special-education students, as well as classroom and instructional aides — perform specialized, teaching-related duties.
Sam Williamson, the union's assistant director, said Gov. Tom Corbett's “decimation of the public education budgets across the state” created the conditions for the tough negotiations that many school districts are having with their union employees.
“Our members recognize what the situation is, and they realize school districts are challenged and budgets are challenged and everybody's got to contribute to get through the next couple of years,” Williamson said.
Union officials went public last week with the employees' Sept. 5 approval of the contract terms. The status of the negotiations wasn't mentioned at the school board's Sept. 9 meeting.
Interim Superintendent Matt Harris said the resolution of the proposed outsourcing and the wage freeze were the main issues that led to the tentative agreement.
Before the school board passed its 2011-12 and 2012-13 budgets, it asked all of the district's bargaining units to accept a one-year wage freeze. None accepted.
“I'm glad it's actually going to the board for a vote because they do a lot for the school district,” Harris said of the proposed contract.
At a June school board meeting, some teachers, paraprofessionals and parents of special-needs children pleaded for board members not to choose outsourcing.
Many of the speakers said those students would be better served by locally hired aides.
“We're happy the contract is settled and these jobs will be kept in-house,” Cheryl McGartland, a paraprofessional at Sunrise Estates Elementary School, said in a prepared statement. “We live and work in this community and feel passionate about helping these children. We're glad we're staying.”
Under the proposed terms, secretaries and custodians will continue to receive health insurance through the district, but paraprofessionals will not, Williamson said.
Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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