Unionville Teachers: we’ll accept wage freeze, salary offer

Union, district still can’t agree on health care issues in 11-month contract talks

By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
Teachers in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District say they will accept a pay freeze — in fact, teachers say they accepted the district’s entire May 9 proposal on salaries and say they still have not gotten a response from the district.

The teachers stopped short of accepting the entire offer, however, rejecting changes to the teachers’ health care plans offered by the district. The teachers union, the Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Association (UCFEA) issued a statement Tuesday, making its stance public.

“The current UCFEA offer contains a salary freeze, delayed raises, a longer work day, paying a higher premium share, and allowing the administration to plan to existing staff days,” the statement said. “A recent grievance settlement removed all items off the table related to tuition reimbursement and course approval.”

Which leaves the thorny issue of health care — and it’s here that the two sides appear to still have some differences.

The union is proposing to continue the current health care plan with some additional employee contributions, arguing that claims by the district of increases in health care costs — the union said — have not materialized.

“The UCFEA proposed retaining its current benefit plan because the District’s health care costs on average have not increased,” the statement said. “The current plan will actually cost the District and the teachers less than projected in the 2011-2012 school year. The decrease of health care costs, combined with the salary freeze that the teachers are currently working under provide the District with substantial savings.”

The district, which is expected to have a formal response soon, has long argued that health care costs are increasing at a rate of about 8% yearly and that teachers either need to be willing to pay more for their health care, or accept a less costly plan as other district employees have.

The teachers are also willing to consider a four-year agreement rather than the board proposed three year agreement.

UCFEA president Pat Clark said that with state funding cuts looking less dire than originally thought, estimates suggest that as much as $880,000 of the projected $1.1 million could be restored — and it appears a minimum of $612,000 expected to be lost for payroll tax reimbursement has been rolled back into the budget passed by the state house last week. That should leave the ditrict in better fiscal shape, the union’s president said.

“This is good news,” Clark said in the statement. “Hopefully, the district will see that a contract settlement is the best way to move forward and to meet the needs of the students, the employees, and the community. We are committed to negotiating in earnest to reach a settlement sometime in the near future.”

Unionville’s teachers have been working without a contract for 11 months _ and negotiations for a new contract have been ongoing for 18 months.

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  1. UCFSD community member says:

    The bottom line I see is that there is some poor communication between the district admin and the employees. If they really cared, there would have been some exit counseling as well as some idea of what there recourse would be for unemployment, health care COBRA etc. I agree that the service staff do much of the behind the scenes work to keep our buildings moving smoothly. They are good people and should have been treated better.
    As for where the money goes (Ipluribus) the teachers did not receive an increase this year either. According to their website are not pushing for huge increases, but will take a cut to pay for their health care. I surely would have hoped that the district would have taken those “budgeted” funds and attempted to keep other jobs in the district. The board also offered the teachers a $750 signing bonus which they did not take. That money could have saved some jobs too.
    Read the ucfea.org site to see the current state of the offers. McGann you got it right. Thanks for trying to get the board to be more transparent. Since they don’t tell each other the process, you can inform the rest who are not on the negotiations team(Knauss, Trigg, Murphy). Seems there is a little communication gap there too.
    Perhaps with all of these freezes, some of the personnel can be hired back. There are a few in the elementary school in my area that are sole bread winners for their famly. Heartless.

  2. Rich Hug says:

    Administrators will not receive the two percent pay increase for the 2011-2012 school year as agreed to in their agreement with the School Board. Instead of reopening their agreement, administrators felt that taking a five day furlough (days wewill work) would be the better way to take a freeze. We believed the form of the freeze had little to do with the intent to sacrifice. I regret that decision if it leaves people in doubt as to the motivation of a committed group of employees who want what is best for the students, parents and staff of the district. Administrators also took a pay freeze (no furlough) for the 2010-2011 school year. The bottom line is that administrators will not receive pay increases or any other increase in compensation for two years straight and have agreed to a different health care plan with a higher employee contribution to boot. I am disappointed that so many are easily able to believe the worst about others.

  3. Ashley says:

    Maybe someone should address other support staff issues. As a friend of several support staffers in the district, I am shocked at the way they have been treated. They were asked by administration to come to a board meeting and make a public statement that they would accept a pay freeze. Obviously these valued employees did so in an attempt to save jobs, yet less than a week or so later, employees were being called into principal’s offices and told their jobs were eliminated. Let’s not forget that they were told that the administrators took a pay freeze as well. It is common knowledge now that the administrators did not take a pay freeze, but they received furlough days. It also seems that the district has failed to provide the terminated support staff with appropriate resources to address their upcoming unemployment. Staffers that survived these cuts were then given new insurance forms to complete, only to discover that the lowest paid employees in the district are being taxed the heaviest by their medical insurance premiums. Support staffs are the backbone of a school district, they should not be devalued nor demoralized.

  4. ipublius says:

    UCFSD community member – your losing your credibility. Your comments are not factual. You appear to have some information but you may want to check your source.

    As for the article itself, I find the concept of one group of employees taking greater benefits while other groups are sacrificing hard to understand.

    Also, I don’t follow that because there may be some relief for the school district financially, that those funds be given to teachers. I believe already strapped taxpayers may have dibs on it. Certainly, supports that aid students should come before teachers.

    Third, I see in the comments the idea that the school board is not doing all they can do to complete a contract. The teacher’s union has an equal role and responsibility to seek a solution. I have heard some say that teachers have no motivation to settle because they continue to receive their preferred health care plan and low employee contribution while the contract is in negotiation.

    As far as I can see this article contains nothing new.

  5. Keith Knauss says:

    Again, your information is just plain wrong.
    1) The “custodial outsourcing effort” mentioned above was a study by an outside neutral agency to determine if outsourcing is warranted. The study has not yet been completed and no decision has been made.
    2) No one has been “let go”. The Board decided, with good reason and wonderful cooperation from the transportation staff, to keep the service in-house.
    3) Please provide some evidence that the administrators “were brutal and mean to the bus drivers in their meeting, as well as the service staff.” I’ve never heard this from anyone but you.

  6. UCFSD community member says:

    And I quote you from your above post about the maintenance: “plannning, the transportation outsourcing decision, the on-going custodial outsourcing effort, the zoning issue” not my words, but yours. This time try to treat the employees with some dignity and respect when letting them go. Unlike the communication made by district office administrators who were brutal and mean to the bus drivers in their meeting, as well as the service staff.

  7. Keith Knauss says:

    UCFSD Community member,

    First, if you are going to run against me in two years you’d better get used revealing who you are and taking responsibility for your comments.
    Second, your information about the maintenance staff is just plain wrong. There has been no decision on the maintenance staff. The Board is following the same deliberate, transparent process used to evaluate transportation outsourcing.
    Third, I’m not sure how often the union team meets, but the Board team meets several times each month and sometimes multiple times in a week. I can assure you that the union team has cancelled as many proposed meeting dates as the Board team. The board just doesn’t waste time trying to make political points when other obligations on the part of either team make meeting on a specific date impossible.

  8. UCFSD community member says:

    I recall last summer the board had a difficult time responding to the teachers offer or even finding a meeting time. There are over 8 teachers on negotiating team and only 3 board members. Why is it that all 8 of them could meet many times and the board often put off meeting times? Will that be the cast this summer. Hooray for the teachers to take a freeze. What will you do with THAT money? I wonder why you have already “outsourced” the maintenance staff without any public discussion at any board meeting. Knauss you need to watch your public comments and keep your personal agenda to yourself. You represent me as a taxpayer in your area and I will run against you if no one else will do so. We need someone who is in touch with the schools. When was the last time you visited any elementary school to see what is really going on? You are destroying our public reputation by downgrading personnel and facilities and curriculum. Get into the buildings and talk to the people in the trenches.

  9. Keith Knauss says:


    I always take anonymous comments with a grain of salt. That said, let’s look at the facts.

    It takes two parties to say “YES” before a contract can be in place. Both sides need time to analyze an offer, construct a counter-offer and get buy-in from their respective negotiations team.

    – You’ve noted that the union has not gotten a formal response to their offer of May 9th. As of today they’ve been waiting 4 weeks.

    – What was not mentioned in the union’s press release was that it took 7 weeks for the union leadership to respond to our offer. The Board’s offer was made on March 21st and the union leadership took until May 9th to respond. While the Board could have complained publicly about the delay we felt it would have been counter productive to do so.

    – Let’s remember that a neutral party – the state Fact Finder – listened to a detailed presentation from both sides and issued a recommendation. That recommendation was unanimously accepted by the Board, but rejected twice by the union. If you were looking for an opportunity that would have given “our teachers a contract so that they can continue to work to their fullest potential”, that was it. That would have resolved the impasse a full 4 months ago in February

    The Board is highly committed and continues to seek a contract that balances the needs of our teachers with those of the community. Our responsibility is to negotiate a contract that is economically sustainable, in-line with the current economic environment and in-line with the sacrifices already made by other district employees. We welcome your comments on contract negotiations. You may speak at any of the monthly meetings listed on the District website (www.ucfsd.org) or contact us via email (www.ucfsd.org/board/).

  10. upride.2011 says:

    The school board should be more committed to resolving teacher-related issues. Sorry that your “vacation plans” might be getting in the way, Mr. Knauss, but that comment just creates more of a validity for the teacher-side of the argument; teachers have outside lives and families as well, on top of the hundreds of students they care for, students who you are supposed to represent. Give our teachers a contract so that they can continue to work to their fullest potential. If you’re not up for the “unpaid” challenges of being a board member, then quit, go to Mexico, and enjoy the margaritas. This is a position which you signed up for, remember that. You are expected to be committed to this cause.

  11. Keith Knauss says:

    A response consisting of a few self-serving generalizations takes only a few hours, but it takes a few days to prepare an accurate, comprehensive, well-documented response. We’re opting for the latter. This is a busy time of year with budget planning, the transportation outsourcing decision, the on-going custodial outsourcing effort, the zoning issue, graduation and the normal demands of running the day-to-day education effort. Throw in vacation plans and work commitments and your unpaid board members might be a bit “stretched”. Your patience is appreciated.

  12. Mike McGann says:

    Honestly, I’m kind of disappointed myself. As the story notes — a response was expected from the board/district. None has been forthcoming.

    I reached out to a couple of board sources and none could comment for the record, but was told a statement would be issued in response shortly.

    It has not materialized. When a formal response — or any sort of response at all — is offered, you’ll see it here.

  13. RH says:

    I am looking for the school board’s perspective in this article. I am startled to see that there is only one side presented.

  14. SL says:

    It’s nice to see the real story of the teachers offer being put out there. I agree with MJ, stop the rhetoric and just get this done! There has to be some common sense here…

  15. MJ says:

    For the sake of the students, the School Board should seriously consider the teachers’ offer, and make a 4-year deal. Work out the health care issue. Let the teachers stop worrying about the amount of their next paychecks and get back to what they do best: educating our children and being involved in their lives outside of the classroom. The “walking on eggshells” atmosphere, the parents’ resentment of the teachers’ non-participation due to “working to contract” and the trickle down rumors that are affecting our children at the UCFSD schools need to dissipate A contract would an appropriate parting gift for retiring superintendent Sharon Parker!

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