Phoenixville schools reach new agreement with teachers' union

PHOENIXVILLE — Less than four months since the last contract was finalized, the Phoenixville Area School District and its teachers’ union have reached a new labor agreement.

A press release from the school district announced “that a tentative collective bargaining agreement has been reached between the district and the Phoenixville Area Education Association.”

“Details concerning the major terms of the new agreement will be released by the board at (a Jan. 23) meeting,” the release said.

A ratification vote is scheduled for the Phoenixville Area Education Association before the school board meeting that day.

Momentum from the last agreement, originally reached in early August, which came after 44 months of negotiations and was approved a month later, would appear to have fueled the quick turnaround for this new agreement.

“Both sides were motivated to negotiate an early-bird agreement and continue the momentum of negotiating,” said Tammy Kurtz, co-president of the teachers’ union.

“I don’t know if I’d call it momentum,” said Phoenixville Area School Board President Joshua Gould. “But both sides desired some stability and time away from the negotiating table after the long negotiations we just finished. The teachers approached us in October and asked if we were interested in “early bird” discussions where we focus down to a few issues and try to get something done quickly before the legal deadline for full negotiations to begin.

“I am very happy that we have been able to get to a tentative agreement, and on the 23rd hopefully both sides will ratify the agreement.”

The last contract spanned retroactively to the summer of 2010 and will expire at the end of the current school year. The new one is scheduled to run from July 1, 2014, until June 30, 2016, according to the school district.

Both sides met to discuss the new deal since the last contract was ratified, said Community Relations Coordinator Sandy Claus.

For the current contract, salaries stayed frozen until the 2013-14 school year. Union members then receive a one-time $2,000 bonus and a full-step raise for the current school year.

The teachers also agreed to stop paying a flat $45 fee for health care and moved to a 7 percent payment of total medical costs.

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