Steel Valley school board approves new teachers' contract
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Steel Valley school board voted unanimously 8-0 tonight to approve a new three-year teachers' contract.
School Director Donald Bajus was absent from the meeting.
Teachers accepted a wage freeze during the first year of the new contract and received a $500 bonus the second year of the contract without additional increases, school Director Mike Terrick said.
He said increases in the third year of the contract depend on each teacher's "step" status of education and years of service.
In mid-September, members of Steel Valley Education Association, the district teachers' union, and the board agreed to the recommendations of a fact finder's report.
School Director Mike Terrick voted for the contract tonight despite having reservations about two issues in it.
The issues were both inserted by a former administrator, Mr. Terrick said, and were not any disagreement Mr. Terrick had with the teachers' union.
One issue that concerned him is that four positions, including two academic coach teaching positions, the athletic director's job and a non-existent dean of students position were included as bargaining unit positions in the new contract.
Bargaining unit positions are very difficult to eliminate if the district must reduce costs, Mr. Terrick said.
Academic coaches are certified teachers who fill in as substitutes if needed, but whose main job is to evaluate other teachers and help them to improve, Mr. Terrick said.
In April, 2011, the Steel Valley school board voted to furlough 40 teachers, counselors, and other professional staff and to furlough 15 support personnel in response to cuts in the state education budget.
In August, Steel Valley business Manager Mark Cherpak said that 23.5 of the 40.5 teachers furloughed in 2011 are still on the furlough list.
Mr. Terrick said someone in the school district asked the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board to make the four jobs bargaining unit positions in 2007 without a vote by the school board.
He said there is no written record of school board members voting for the addition of the four jobs as bargaining unit positions. Mr. Terrick believes the request to the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board was issued by former Superintendent William Kinavey and former school Board President Joe Ducar.
Mr. Terrick said when he asked about the addition of the four jobs as bargaining unit positions, Bill Andrews, the attorney representing the district in negotiations with the teachers, said it won't make it harder to fire those employees if the district ever needs to, since their positions have already been bargaining unit positions since 2007.
Mr. Andrews couldn't produce proof the board ever voted to ask that those jobs be made bargaining unit positions, Mr. Terrick said.
Mr. Kinavey, when contacted this evening, said he could not recall the request to the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board.
The other issue of concern to Mr. Terrick was language in the new contract that prohibits teachers from driving students to activities.
Mr. Terrick said Mr. Andrews said prohibiting teachers and coaches from transporting students in their own vehicles was his own idea.
According to Mr. Terrick, Mr. Andrews said former Superintendent William Kinavey wanted the rule inserted into the new contract, and new Superintendent Ed Wehrer said via phone tonight that he supports the change to prevent abuses of the sort that Jerry Sandusky committed.
During one meeting tonight, Mr. Andrews also argued that if a teacher were ever in an accident while transporting a student, the district could be liable.
Under the new contract rules, the district must provide a bus to transport any students going to outside activities, even if there are only one to three students going to a golf match or quiz bowl.
That will be very expensive, Mr. Terrick said, at $250 per bus, and he believes the district will just eliminate buses to those activities if the cost becomes too expensive.
In September, Superintendent Ed Wehrer said the new contract would retroactively include the 2011-12 school year as its first year. This will be considered to be the second year of the contract, he said.
First Published October 11, 2012 11:48 pm