Teachers still lack deal with Pine-Richland

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Teachers in the Pine-Richland School District have been working nearly two years without a new contract, and tonight they are expected to attend the school board meeting en masse to bring the issue to the forefront before the board.

The previous contract was in effect, with a two-year extension, from July 1, 2006, to June 30, 2012, with formal negotiations for a new agreement starting in January 2012. The two sides reached tentative deals at times but were unable to agree on all issues.

When their talks failed to produce an agreement, the sides turned to fact-finding, and in February a formal hearing was held for both sides to make their case to fact-finder Michelle Miller-Kotula.

Last month, the school board twice voted unanimously to accept Ms. Miller-Kotula's recommendations, but the 336-member teachers union voted overwhelmingly twice to reject it, leaving the sides once again unable to agree.

Dan Carey, a regional field director for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said the Pine-Richland teachers rejected the fact-finder's recommendations because they provided no salary increases for teachers at the top of the scale and eliminated the early retirement incentive that provided teachers with district-sponsored health insurance until they qualified for Medicare.

The district noted in its proposal that nearly 84 percent of the faculty has not reached the top step.

"This is basically a delayed jump step for those people," Mr. Carey said.

The fact-finder's recommendation would have set the salary for a starting teacher with a bachelor's degree at $41,798. For a teacher at the top of the scale with a master's degree, it set salary at $93,650.

In addition to the delayed jump step, Mr. Carey said while the fact-finder recommendations provided no salary increases for those at the top scale, they included increases in health premium payments. The fact-finder recommended increasing premiums from 5.5 percent in 2014 to 8 percent in 2016-17.

The union membership rejected the recommendations because of the hardships they created for those at the top of the scale, Mr. Carey said.

"There's no raise, they pay more for health care, and there is no retirement health insurance," Mr. Carey said.

Peter Lyons, Pine-Richland school board president, said in a written statement that the board believes the fact-finder's recommendations represent "a reasonable compromise regarding the outstanding issues and should move the parties toward a settlement."

Mr. Carey said the sides met once in the past month, but little progress was made. Mr. Lyons said the board is awaiting "a meaningful and substantive proposal from the PREA."

Mary Niederberger: mniederberger@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1590.

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