Elizabeth Forward contract has wage freeze in year one

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The Elizabeth Forward school board has approved a new three-year teachers contract. The 7-1 vote came Monday night.

The Elizabeth Forward Education Association, the district teachers' union, had released details of its agreement with the school district in late October, but Patricia McGrail, district solicitor, said Monday that more negotiation was needed because of ambiguities in the state fact finder's report.

Monday night, school Director Margaret Morgan said the teachers' union agreed to a wage freeze the first year of the contract.

Teachers will receive incremental "step" increases the second and third years of the contract.

In most districts, teachers are hired at various "steps" (with a bachelor's degree; with a bachelor's degree plus a master's degree, etc.) that determine starting wages, and can increase annually.

In late October, Chrissy Cortazzo of the Pennsylvania State Education Association said starting pay for a teacher with a bachelor's degree in the district was $43,620 in the last year of the old contract, the 2012-2013 school year. She said starting pay will be the same all three years of the new contract.

Similarly, Ms. Cortazzo, who negotiated the agreement for the union, said in October that the top salary on the wage scale after 19 years of teaching, $85,450, would be the same throughout the new contract.

Salaries throughout the contract would remain at 2012-2013 levels except for those teachers who are reaching step 19, the top of the salary scale, or who are already there.

After Monday's special meeting, Mrs. McGrail said teachers reaching step 19 will receive a step increase in pay plus $1,100; teachers who are already at step 19 will receive a $1,100 increase.

Teachers will pay 3 percent of the cost of their health insurance premiums during the second and third years of the contract.

In October, Ms. Cortazzo said teachers had paid 3 percent of the 2009-2010 health insurance premium rate from 2009 on. She said that percentage would continue during the 2013-2014 school year.

Reading from a written statement, Ms. Morgan quoted fact finder Jane Minnich's report, saying the wage and health care recommendations in the report were "made in light of the district's convincing arguments regarding its current financial situation."

Anne Cloonan, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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