UCF, teachers appear far apart in contract talks

Sides sparring over benefits, salary as negotiations continue

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

TecaherTalksEAST MARLBOROUGH — New talks for a contract between the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District and its teachers may be more protracted and complicated than similar talks two years ago, as both sides appear to be far apart on terms for a new three-year deal to replace the pact that expires June 30.

The district held a briefing Friday to discuss its proposal — offering an average of 2.08% percent yearly increase in total compensation (roughly 1.26% of which is salary) — while the teachers’ union publicly revealed its position (seeking a roughly 5.01% increase), via a presentation released via social media. The district’s proposal will be made public during the Board of Education meeting Monday night.

The two sides have been talking a couple of times a month since December, but don’t appear close to a deal.

The difference in the two proposals amounts to about $1 million in the 2015-16 budget year, out of a proposed budget of about $80 million.

Although published reports that suggest that the district is asking teachers to accept pay cuts are not accurate — the three-year deal the district proposed calls for salary increases of .58%, 1% and 2.5% — the two sides have not found common ground as yet.

At least from the presentations released Friday, it appears the two sides are far apart — and the potential is there for a more contentious process, more akin to the stormy 2010-11 talks which required state mediation and imposition of status quo terms, as opposed to the calmer 2012-13 talks, especially reflected different takes on the situation in both presentations.

The union argues it hasn’t seen a salary increase since 2012 and that total salary is down since 2009-10 and that it is being asked to accept the “worst” health care package in the county. The district is countering that Act 1 tax limits and spikes in the costs of teacher pensions will lead lead to layoffs, program cuts and larger class sizes in the district if the union’s proposal were accepted.

While the district offered up board members Gregg Lindner and Keith Knauss — two of the three board members on the negotiating team and Superintendent of Schools John Sanville to make the district’s case, Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Association President Scott Broomall did not respond to a request for comment.

In its presentation, the teachers union blasts the district’s proposal, saying that it “would keep teacher salaries frozen to the point that we would be average or below average compared to other schools in the county.”

The district, on the other hand, said that granting the union proposal would be difficult to justify to the public — as the salary increases are larger than the average area resident is seeing, with most residents seeing little more than 2% salary hikes yearly.

Also, Lindner and Knauss noted, just keeping a status quo situation, with no raises and no changes to benefits, would amount to a 1.85% increase in the 2015-26 budget year. The last time the district imposed status quo, teachers stopped participating in non-mandatory afters school activities, leading to the cancellation of a number of student activities.

While both sides stick to their talking points as part of the ongoing negotiation, the reality for parents and taxpayers may be a bit more difficult to decipher. While neither side’s claims technically are inaccurate, it is important to put each of the arguments in some context to evaluate their weight.

While it is true that overall professional staff salary is lower than it was in 2009-10, much of that is because of a lower headcount. Current professional staff totals 318, while during the 2009-10 school year, staff was as high as 332. Reacting to the financial downturn of 2008-11 and mounting pension costs, the district cut personnel counts in administration, support and professional staff.

However, the teachers argue that the district is asking the professional staff to, in essence, “double dip” — again contribute to the pension payments they have been making all along by taking smaller salary increases. Much of the current pension crisis stems from a 2001 state law that allowed the state and school districts to underpay into the pension system — in some years as little as 1% of salary — while teachers continued to pay 7.5% or more of their salary into the fund.

Teachers also argue their salary scale is already lower than four neighboring districts, Kennett, Great Valley, Tredyffrin-Easttown and Phoenixville and continuing such policy will make it difficult for the district to retain and recruit top new teachers.

The district leadership disagrees and says Unionville-Chadds Ford remains a top destination for teachers in the area — and clearly among the best places for teaching staff in the county.

“In all the time I’ve been on the board, I don’t recall ever losing a teacher to a neighboring district,” Board Finance Chair Keith Knauss said.

Where the battle lines though appear to be drawn is over healthcare. While district officials declined to be specific in what changes they were seeking, the UCFEA blasted the district proposal, saying it “would give new professional staff the worst health package in the county” and exclude spouses from the plan.

The district proposal does call for “carve outs” in cases where spouses have similar benefits available at work, they would be required to take them, rather than use school district benefits. Benefits would be available for spouses without healthcare plans — and the proposal matches current policy for administrators and support staff in the district.

The practice, in part because of the Affordable Care Act, is becoming more common in the business world and even in the public sector, although Unionville-Chadds Ford would be the first school district to implement such a plan in Chester County, were both sides to agree to it.

   Send article as PDF   

Share this post:

Related Posts


  1. PA_Taxpayer says:

    There are hundreds of out of work teachers who would love to work in the “Blue Ribbon” UCFSD! #CleanHouse

    • TE says:

      From: UCF board approves new 4-year pact with Sanville
      February 19, 2014 | 25 Comments:Uniontimes: Mike McGann

      “Sanville, who took over as superintendent in Sept., 2011, is in the final months of his original three-year contract, is getting a new four-year-deal that calls initially for a 10% salary boost, effective in Sept., 2014. In the following years, the contract calls for salary hikes at the rate of the Act 1 index. The current rate for the 2014-15 school year is 2.1%, as an example”

      If you go to the article, you will read how Keith justifies Dr. Sanville’s pay increase and now Dr. Sanville and Keith are 2 members of the team chosen by the District to negotiate the teachers contract. This is a direct conflict of interest. How can the Board go from one side of the negotiating table to the other when it comes to negotiating the Administrator/Supt. contracts/agreements? How do you make that transition? When it comes time for the school district to negotiate Dr. Sanville’s contract again, what mechanics and procedures are in place for that? Will he be granted another 10% salary increase? After negotiating the teachers contract, won’t it be awkward for Board Members to to then make the transition and negotiate with him concerning his contract?

      Instead of cleaning house, let’s execute our voting power, take advantage of term limits, and vote in School Board Directors who are not de facto functionaries of the administration.

    • Patton MS Complacency says:

      Can’t agree more – someone’s comments in the Kennett Paper: Maybe the board is finally recognizing that there is a part of the teacher population that are no more than proctors for highly motivated and/or bright kids who come from already successful families who do everything they can to ensure their kids’ success in the classroom. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very good teachers in this district. However, there is a ton of entitled, dead wood in the middle school especially. Chicken or the egg? Great teachers? Or, are the teachers dealt an already winning hand?

      • TE says:

        From an article from Chaddsford Live:

        Board members voted 6-1 Monday to extend the contract of Assistant to the
        Superintendent Ken Batchelor through 2020. The new deal will bring his salary up from $178,199, to $193,199.

        The lone vote against the $15,000 per year raise came from Director Carolyn Daniels, who said her vote was no reflection on Batchelor’s performance, but that it was a bad time for such an increase because of the negotiations with the union, the Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Association.

        How many teachers could you hire for Administrator Batchelor’s $193,199 salary? 4? To answer your question, teachers are already dealt a winning hand, but that doesn’t mean students can be the best they can be without good teachers. Bright students need bright teachers. Like in any profession, there are some bad eggs but that doesn’t mean you throw the whole bunch out. Teachers do ALOT more than teach too. They guide, they nurture, they encourage, and they volunteer their free time for letter writing, application forms, etc. I want my kids to be taught by highly qualified teachers, not by video’s, and teachers deserve and work for
        every penny they get.

  2. TE Resident says:

    Sanville, who took over as superintendent in Sept., 2011, is in the final months of his original three-year contract, is getting a new four-year-deal that calls initially for a 10% salary boost, effective in Sept., 2014. In the following years, the contract calls for salary hikes at the rate of the Act 1 index. The current rate for the 2014-15 school year is 2.1%, as an example.

  3. Honesty is the best policy says:

    Your article states: “Although published reports that suggest that the district is asking teachers to accept pay cuts are not accurate — the three-year deal the district proposed calls for salary increases of .58%, 1% and 2.5%….”

    To the contrary, UCF school board member Bob Sage, who is on the board’s negotiating team, posted a link on his own website to an article that states: “The school board is offering salary increases of minus.42 percent in the first year, zero percent in the second and 1.5 percent pay hike in the third year.”

    This sounds like a teacher pay cut to me.

    • Mike McGann says:

      The numbers you cite reflect the figures before an additional 1% is added back into the salary pool, to reflect the cost-reduction that comes with top of the scale teachers retiring, according to the district. The numbers in my story reflect the effective rates — the district said there would be no pay cuts under their proposal. Granted, it is confusing — especially with a board director putting those numbers out — but I checked to make sure, as the lower rates don’t add up to an average increase of 1.26%. But we will continue to monitor it and make sure we report the most accurate numbers possible.

    • Bob Sage says:

      Fact check — I am not on the board’s negotiating team.

  4. Patton MS Complacency says:

    Our child just had one of his teachers at Patton show a video of herself teaching a math lesson and during a “sub” day. Wow – she just made herself a commodity. I say we save a whole bunch of money and just subscribe to similar teaching methods from third parties and get rid of all of the complacent/lazy teachers who do nothing to elevate their teaching to make each and every student successful. This would then allow the good teachers to enjoy their earned pay raises.

    • my2cents says:

      Substitute teachers aren’t always placed in their area of strength/expertise. Was this teacher trying to make sure the math instruction was delivered appropriately? How was the lesson delivered? Was it using the technology of a smart board where the teacher would have had to record all the problems and use a voice over? Was it a video played through the television? There are many questions not addressed in the post but whatever the answers are, the teacher must have cared or why else would she take the time to record the lesson?

      • Patton MS Complacency says:

        Unfortunately in the case, the teacher in question has quite a habit of directing her students to videos when students approach her for clarification and/or extra help. So, where is the personal connection to help the kids maximize their potential? Without such a personal connection, or human touch, she is making herself easily replaceable by any pre-packaged online system. The district needs to be aware and careful about teachers like this one – one that just goes through the motions in a one-size-fits-all approach that lacks the personal connection to learning that should be earned via an average annual salary of $90k. Taxpayers should be demanding the hands-on approach of every single teacher rather than settling for teachers who “mail it in” and act entitled to receive the wonderful students they get each and every day.

    • 2morecents says:

      What would you prefer when there is a substitute? If a worksheet was given, wouldn’t you say that the teacher just “left busy work”? If nothing was left to do, then the teacher was unprepared. If your child was just given problems in the book with no instruction, then the question would be why the teacher felt that instruction was unnecessary. I guess we see the situation differently. I see this as a teacher who wanted the students to not lose a day of instruction and therefore created a video to make the day worthwhile. I guess the biggest question is, did your child learn the concept? If so, then the teacher met the goal. If not, did he seek help from the teacher when she returned? If so, then it sounds like the teacher was needed and not a “commodity”.

  5. TE Resident says:

    Sanville has a nearly three-year track record of running the district, and has shown that he deserves comparable compensation to that of other superintendents in the district. Even under the new deal, Knauss noted, that Sanville would be seventh in pay in the county.

    Knauss acknowledged that it might be difficult for district employees being asked to accept smaller salary increases to see such a hike, but noted that Sanville had been underpaid relative to his contemporaries — and was making less than his predecessor, Sharon Parker. The new deal is appropriate and, he said, arguably still under market value for a now seasoned superintendent.

    Board member Eileen Bushelow, who made it clear that she strongly supported Sanville and wanted him to continue as superintendent, voted against the pact — saying she didn’t feel it was the best deal for the school district.
    The above is from an article Dated February 2014, regarding Dr. Sanville’s pay increase. Interesting that the district is choosing him to work against the teachers in their quest for equal pay. Especially since UCF ranked number 1 in the state this past testing year. TESD ranked #5, our average teacher salary is almost $90,000 per year.

  6. TE says:

    Am I correct that you are saying that because

    […] and an extra notice was sent out to the district encouraging the community to be involved after a press briefing was held at the district office Friday morning revealing the status of negotiations for the […]:

    that the Board was justified in calling a press conference on a Friday morning when they knew the Union Rep could not respond?

    Mike, I’m also confused why the second half of my comment below was taken
    down. Thanks.

Leave a Comment