Mars approves early 3-year contract with teachers

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Mars Area School District will have labor peace for the next three years.

The school board and the Mars Area Education Association approved an early-bird contract Monday. The new contract term is July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2017. The current agreement expires June 30.

Talks to arrive at the last two contracts in Mars Area were contentious, involving state negotiators and threats of strikes, and saw shorter contracts. The present contract was approved Nov.5, 2012, four months after the previous one expired.

“The early negotiations agreement is indeed exciting news for the Mars Area School District, and I do believe a first for the district,” said Karen Yost, president of the teachers’ union.

School board President J. Dayle Ferguson said the agreement “is fiscally sustainable, will provide budget stability and predictability and it consistent with the board’s commitment to keeping the dollars close to students and the educational program.”

The agreement increases the professional staff’s work year by one day to 189 days; provides raises of 1.5 percent each of the first two years and 1.75 percent the third year; and allows for development of an online learning environment and creation of a teacher evaluation model.

Starting salary will be $39,995 in 2014-15 and $42,211 in 2016-17. Teachers at the highest step, Step 18, will receive $71,516 next year and $73,732 the final year of the contract, said Jill Swaney, business manager.

Negotiations were led by James Budzilek, the new superintendent, and Ms. Swaney.

Both Mrs. Ferguson and Mrs. Yost praised the negotiating atmosphere.

“The meetings with the district were cordial and collaborative and, I believe, set the tone for the future of the district as we work together in the best interest of our students, their families, and the community,” Mrs. Yost said. “The teachers are very pleased with the agreement, and, overall, I am more than pleased that the association's leadership team was able to work so well with the school board and Dr. Budzilek to reach an agreement that is fair to both sides.”

Mrs. Ferguson said the negotiating process was “mutually respectful” and involved “active listening, candid conversation and, ultimately, reasonable compromise.”

“The board is confident that the positive energy and open communications will continue as we face the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead,” she added.

 

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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