Ligonier Valley approves contract
The Ligonier Valley Education Association and Ligonier Valley School Board voted on Monday to approve a teachers contract for July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2016.
The teachers worked 556 days without a contract. A tentative agreement was reached during a negotiating meeting on Jan. 7.
According to a list of the agreement highlights, the four-year contract term includes raises in its second and third year, with a regress in the fourth year. There was a wage freeze in the first year — 2012-13.
The starting salary for the bachelor's degree level will increase from $40,000 in the first year to approximately $42,659 in the fourth year, and the maximum salary for a master's degree level will increase from approximately $75,000 in the first year to $77,842 in the fourth year.
The Act 1 Index for 2014-15 will be 2.10 percent, with a millage rate of 75 for 2013-14. The maximum millage rate increase for 2014-15 is 1.575, and the maximum additional revenue generated by the allowable millage increase is $264,600.
“It has been a long, arduous journey to this day, but I am happy to report the tentative agreement between Ligonier Valley School District and Ligonier Valley Education Association has passed by the Ligonier Valley Education Association,” said LVEA chief negotiator Amy Salay at the board meeting. “Through it all, our educators have never lost sight of what is most important: our students, their education and this community. It is not pleasant to negotiate your worth in a public forum, but LV educators consider their livelihood their calling rather than just employment, and they are committed to doing whatever it takes to secure that calling.”
Salay called upon the union, board, faculty, administration, families and community to heed advice from educator and author Rita Pierson and strengthen partnerships for the good of Ligonier Valley's youth and the community.
“Let us not wait for a crisis but instead perform our jobs proactively, restoring strong relationships with one another and our students,” she said.
Salay ended her statement by offering an apple to Superintendent Dr. Chris Oldham on behalf of the LVEA, describing it as “a gesture of good faith, which symbolizes our commitment to our relationships with you, the school board, our students and families in this community.” Oldham accepted it.
During its regular business, the board voted unanimously to approve the contract.
Irvin Tantlinger presented a statement detailing his personal opinion on the negotiations and the results. He stated his opinion did not represent any administration or board members.
“I have been involved in over 10 contract negotiations in my 45 years in education, and I found this contract to be the most contentious and difficult of all,” he said.
“The district does not have much to negotiate with because of the held-hostage effects of the union. During this whole process, we have maintained a desire to protect our students and provide the best education opportunities as possible while attempting to protect the taxpayers with some sense of sanity when it comes to taxation; however the union seemed to hold most of the cards when it came to negotiation.”
Tantlinger cited the “most pressing issues” confronted in negotiations as “pension costs, spiraling health care costs, and millage increase over the next three years.”
He said he is concerned about the school year 2016-17, when a new contract will be negotiated, adding that the state of Pennsylvania should “take the strike threat away and stop holding students as hostages.”
“The instructional costs and benefits of this contract will result, in my opinion, in a reduction in teachers and elimination of some programs,” he said. “This contract will result in a millage increase in each of the next two years. The taxpayers of the district will bear the brunt of this contract.”
After no other directors had any comments, the board adjourned for an executive session for contracts and personnel discussions.
Salay said she was disturbed by Tantlinger's comments.
“I think we were trying very hard to restore our partnerships tonight, and I'm very disturbed that a board member would publicly try to derail that,” she said.
The board's next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 10, with a planning session at 6 p.m.
Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or firstname.lastname@example.org.