Unionville schools, teachers reach contract deal

Both sides must ratify new pact, after ‘quiet’ talks net two-year deal

UPDATED, 11:07 a.m.: Corrects detail on negotiation representation.

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
TecaherTalksEAST MARLBOROUGH — The Unionville-Chadds Ford School District and its teachers union have reached tentative agreement Monday on a two-year contract, potentially avoiding a repeat of the contentious 2010-11 wrangling over the previous contract.

While neither side would divulge the details of the proposed pact, both sides agreed last month that they were about $700,000 per year apart, or a little over $2,000 per teacher, and the deal is expected to have come in somewhere in the middle between the teachers’ proposal and the district’s proposal.

However, comments from board member Keith Knauss during Monday night’s Budget Hearing, suggest that the salary increases could be at or above the Act 1 limit in the next two budget years — 2013-14 is set at 1.7% & 2014-15 is currently projected at 2.2%. It was unclear from comments Monday whether that figure represented just salary impact or the salary plus pension costs, which because of a shortfall in the state pension fund, the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) is increasing its match requirement by more than 3% each year — a rate expected to be 16.9% of total salary for the 2013-14 school year.

Those numbers could change, pending proposed legislation — sponsored by State Rep. Chris Ross (R-158) — that would reduce the contribution levels, expected to be formally announced today in Harrisburg. Ross’ bill basically follows the outline of Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposal to move new teachers into a 401K-like retirement plan, cut some multipliers for existing teachers and reduce the rate of increase on state and district pension contributions.

Both the Board of Education and the rank-and-file of the teachers union, the Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Association (UCFEA), will have to ratify the deal, a process that will likely take some weeks to complete, but could be done before the current contract is set to expire on June 30. The details of the agreement likely won’t be released until presented to the rank-and-file of the union, expected at some point this week.

Victor Dupuis, who led the negotiating committee for the board, said that the details of the new pact would be made available to the public for at least a week before the board voted to ratify the deal.

Pat Clark, president of the UCFEA, said he could not divulge any details on the agreement, but said he hoped that the union would be able to ratify the deal by May 20. The board, based on informal discussions, would appear to also have a majority in support of the deal, and could vote on it at the board meeting that evening.

Representatives from both sides praised the “quiet” process used this time to hammer out a deal, where only board members or administrators negotiated with representatives of the local union. The district did not bring in outside negotiators, as happened during the last cycle of talks. Ruthann Waldie, from the Pennsylvania State Education Association, did join the UCFEA representatives in the talks.

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