Phoenixville agrees to contract with teachers after quick negotiations

Phoenixville Area School District

PHOENIXVILLE — Negotiations stretched for 45 months before Phoenixville Area School District and its teachers finalized the current contract between the two.

Elapsed time between the beginning of negotiations and the ratification of the next one: approximately three months.

“It will be very, very nice to be in a period of time where we actually have stability” said Phoenixville Superintendent Alan Fegley.

Following ratification by the Phoenixville Area Education Association (PAEA, the teachers’ union) earlier in the day, the Phoenixville Area School Board unanimously approved the contract in its Thursday night meeting.

Board members Betsy Ruch and Jan Potts were not present to vote.

The approved contract will take effect July 1 and stretch to June 2016.

In October, the Phoenixville Area Education Association approached the school district with interest in beginning “early bird negotiations,” according to Board President Josh Gould last week, when a tentative agreement was announced.

Tammy Kurtz, co-president of the teachers’ union, told the board that she felt negotiations this time around were much more positive.

“It was a very good experience as opposed to the past three years that we experienced,” Kurtz said.

Among the terms of the contract released Thursday night, teachers not at the top of the pay scale will receive a half-step salary increase for the 2014-15 school year. They’ll also receive another half-step increase in 2015-16.

Teachers at the top of the scale will receive a flat $750 bonus each year.

School district figures indicate these increases amount to a 1.5 to 2 percent raise for each bargaining unit member.

Additionally, members of the teacher’s union will go from paying 7 percent of the deductible for their medical benefits to 10 percent in 2014-15 and from 10 to 11 percent in 2015-16.

A release from the Phoenixville Area Education Association said those were the two issues “brought to the table” for negotiation in the contract.

“PAEA made the decision to settle an agreement that includes an increase in both salary and medical contribution,” a statement from union co-president Catherine Renzulli read. “The PAEA wished to avoid another protracted period of working under an expired contract while still facing a significant number of open items for negotiation. This newly-ratified agreement gives the district and the association two years of labor rest while still maintaining its third-place ranking in Chester County for maximum salaries, reasonable health care costs and job security.”

Applause broke out in the meeting room Thursday night after the school board’s ratification vote.

Roughly 75 percent of the school district’s Act 1 index, the highest a budget can go with a tax increase before seeking approval from the state for exceptions, will be tied up under the new contract, according to the school district’s figures.

Gould said the initial impact of the contract is less than the last one, since teacher’s received full step increases in salary for the 2013-14 year as opposed to next year’s half-step. He implied the contract could lead to more of an impact moving forward, however, because the teachers’ salary was frozen for the first three years of the last contract and the teachers will receive a half-step next year and may receive boosts in the next contract as well.

Both sides thanked the leadership of the other in the meeting as well as their own.

Check out a Twitter recap of Thursday’s school board meeting.

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.

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