Allegheny Valley, teachers agree to deal
The two-year impasse between the Allegheny Valley School Board and its teachers union is over: both sides this week agreed to the terms of a new contract.
Jennifer Novich, president of the Allegheny Valley Education Association, on Thursday confirmed the teachers had agreed to the terms set forth by a neutral fact-finder. She said a majority of the union's 94 members approved the fact-finder's proposal on Tuesday.
Since the school board approved the same proposal in a 5-3 vote on Wednesday, the fact-finder's report becomes the terms of the new contract.
Novich said the new three-year deal, which is retroactive to July 2009 when the last contract expired, will offer teachers an average 3.5 percent raise over the life the contract.
She said teachers agreed to a pay freeze during the first year of the contract, which was 2009-10.
Since teachers still advance a step on the salary scale, they receive a raise of about 6.7 percent in year two, which is the current 2010-11 school year, Novich said.
Next school year they will receive an estimated raise of 3.7 percent, she said.
Board President Scott Redman did not dispute Novich's salary estimates, but said he could not confirm them late Thursday.
Redman said the fact-finder's report and a summary of its highlights will be posted on the school district's website today.
Redman and Novich confirmed teachers will pay more for health insurance in the last two years of the contract.
During the 2009-10 year, they will continue to pay 2 percent of the cost of their health insurance premiums. In the last two years, they will pay 3 percent of the premium cost -- a 50-percent increase from the first year.
Redman said there is no cap to the amount teachers may be asked to pay, regardless of how much the health insurance costs increase. He said the cap had been a request of the union that was not granted.
Novich said the teachers agreed to two main concessions: retiree health insurance and use of family medical leave.
Starting next school year, the district will pay health insurance only for retirees, not for their spouses. And new employees will not be entitled to retiree health insurance at all.
Redman said retiree spouses of current employees still can buy into the district's health insurance plan, but the district will no longer pay for it.
As for the changes to family medical leave, teachers now must take the unpaid leave concurrently with accumulated paid sick days. Previously, they could use paid sick days and then take unpaid family medical leave -- allowing them a longer period of time off.
Redman said the changes to retiree benefits and medical leave represented significant cost savings to the school board, which helped make fact-finder's proposal acceptable to the board.
He said those savings, coupled with expected retirements and other cost-saving measures, should result in no property tax increases to cover the cost of the contract.
"We were hoping for little less salary, a little more health-care contributions," Redman said. "On the balance, we found the benefit savings the fact-finder had awarded us made it acceptable to a majority.
"I think both sides got a little bit, both got something they were looking for," Redman said. "I think that's why both agreed to accept it."
Novich said the most recent fact-finder's report was more palatable to the union because it did not include the "add-a-step, delete-a-step" provision to the salary schedule that was included a previous fact-finder's report.
"This fact-finder's report gave us step movement all three years," Novich said.
In addition to a second round of fact-finding, the two sides also went through final best-offer arbitration this school year after the teachers went on a 20-day strike in the fall.
"It has been a long road," Novich said. "I am glad that both sides were able to come to an agreement finally."
"We're happy -- the board is satisfied we were able to resolve the issues and get on with education," Redman said. "We won't have to focus on labor issues."
One possible down side to the new deal is its short term -- it expires June 30, 2012, which will have the two sides back to the negotiating table as soon as January.
"That's something I'm not thrilled about, but I am glad we were able to get something for the members," Novich said. "And we'll be able to start over in six months, instead of being three years down."
Some of the terms of the new Allegheny Valley teachers contract approved this week, according to union President Jennifer Novich:
• The three-year deal expires June 30, 2012. It is retroactive to July 2009.
• The average teacher will earn 3.5 percent more by the end of the contract.
• Starting salaries will increase from $35,000 to $36,125.
• Teacher salaries at Step 20, the top of the pay scale, will go from $85,850 to $86,975.
• The average teacher salary will increase from $58,000 to $64,000 by the end of the contract.
• Teachers will pay 3 percent of their health insurance premiums in the last two years of the contract. In the first year, they'll continue to pay 2 percent.
According to district officials, the fact-finder's report and a summary of its highlights -- in effect, the contract essentials -- were to be posted on the school district's website today: avsd.k12.pa.us