PHOENIXVILLE — Forty-five months after negotiations began, the Phoenixville Area School District and its teachers finally have a contract agreement.
“It’s just been a really long haul,” said Phoenixville Area Education Association co-president Tamara Kurtz.
The Phoenixville Area School Board voted 9-0 on Monday, Sept. 23 to ratify the contract, a day after the teachers’ union voted to ratify it.
After the board’s unanimous vote, everyone in the room applauded.
Negotiations ran from January 2010 until an agreement was reached in early August this year.
The contract the district’s teachers operated under for the past three years expired at the end of the 2009-10 school year.
Due to the length of negotiations, the contract spans from the 2010-11 school year until the end of the current school year.
“I’m at a loss for words,” an overjoyed Catherine Renzulli, the other co-president of the teachers’ union, told the school board just before it adjourned Monday evening.
“This gives everyone some months of labor rest,” Renzulli told 21st Century Media after the meeting. “We can focus on what we do best, which is educating Phoenixville’s children.”
At no point throughout negotiations did the teachers go on strike or decline carrying out any extracurricular activities.
“I want to thank everybody on the district negotiating team who worked on this,” said school board president Joshua Gould. “Thank you to the PAEA negotiation team who certainly put in as many hours as we did.”
Gould was the lead board representative on the district’s negotiating team.
As part of the terms, the salaries from the previous contract held for the school years before the current one. Members of the union will receive a one-time $2,000 bonus, according to a district release on the contract.
All members of the union will receive a full-step raise for 2013-14.
Additionally, instead of paying a flat, monthly $45 rate for health care, Phoenixville Area Education Association members will pay 7 percent of their total medical costs moving forward.
They’ll also have a three-tiered prescription plan that includes the mandatory use of generic prescriptions whenever possible.
Within the contract, there was no mandate to remove bargaining unit members’ spouses off the district plan if their work provided coverage, which was a major sticking point in negotiations.
The contract does provide for a spouse, at the beginning of a contract year, to remove themselves from the district coverage, which would qualify them for a stipend of $2,000.
The decision to leave the plan or re-enroll is possible to be made every year.
Citing the agreement with the teachers and a recent deal with the district’s custodians and secretaries, the school district said labor relations are getting better moving forward.
“The district has made great strides in maintaining labor peace while holding down cost for the taxpayers,” said the district release. “At this time, only the union representing the aides and technology staff continues to operate under an expired contract and negotiations between that union and the district are ongoing.”
Since the new agreement only goes through the 2013-14 school year, both sides will be meeting again in January.
“(We’re) ready to go back to the table,” Kurtz said.
Renzulli said their negotiating team will likely be changing by then, with two members retiring, but she reiterated that they’ll be ready.
“We’ll be back soon,” Gould said. “Both sides gave up a lot along the way so I think it will be smoother this time.”