Catholic high school teachers OK new one-year contract

Teachers in the 17 Archdiocese of Philadelphia high schools ratified a new one-year contract Tuesday, ending months of negotiating and any potential strike following the expiration of their last pact on Aug. 31.

PHILADELPHIA >> Teachers in the 17 Archdiocese of Philadelphia high schools ratified a new one-year contract Tuesday, ending months of negotiating and any potential strike following the expiration of their last pact on Aug. 31.

The general membership of the Association of Catholic Teachers Local 1776 approved the new collective-bargaining agreement that was focused on providing more education time and professional development opportunities to the union’s 600 full-time lay teachers. A salary increase was also included in the contract.

Members of the archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Education and the union met over the holiday weekend. hoping to have a deal worked out before the first day of school on Sept. 6.

Archdiocesan spokesman Ken Gavin called the contract ratification a “testimonial to academic excellence” with the partnership between the educators, parents and students.

“It is the agreement we had hoped to obtain for the current and future benefit of everyone,” he said in a prepared statement released Tuesday afternoon.

The new contract ratifies four “key elements” that were previously circulated to school families as being crucial to the schools: Two additional after school professional development days will be added during this 2017-2018 academic year; the teacher work day will be extended by 15 minutes beginning in the 2018-2019 academic year; two additional professional development days for teachers will be added to the calendar prior to Labor Day beginning in the 2018-2019 academic year; and new opportunities for coaching and mentoring teachers (tenured and non-tenured) will be put in place to help our educators succeed to the best of their ability effective with the 2017-2018 academic year.

On the most latter point, early interventions will follow an evaluation that would note where areas of improvement are needed.

For 2017-18, there are four scheduled professional development days throughout the present school year per the academic year calendar. Gavin said the two new professional development days added in the contract have not yet been defined.

“From our perspective, the important points were the addition of two (professional development days) in the summer and two during the academic year,” Gavin said Tuesday afternoon when reached for clarification.

While salary and benefits contributions are usual factors in many union contract negotiations, Gavin had previously said they were not areas of contention points in negotiations this time. Medical copays from union members will not increase, but teachers will see a across-the-board raise of $1,200.

Union members with a bachelor’s degree and 20 years of service earn about $54,000. The new contract will raise the starting salary from $39,000 to $38,000.

“This was not the typical contract negotiation where the issues were primarily limited to financial matters, such as salary and benefits. The issues at stake were essential if our schools are to continue their tradition of excellence into the future. The changes implemented in the new contract are ones that will lead to improvement in student achievement and the quality of academic program offerings,” Gavin stated.

Negotiations started in late March, and there were 16 sessions through late August. The springtime meetings were a start to allow “ample time” to reach a contract agreement.

“I am really happy that the teachers approved the new contract,” said union President Rita Schwartz. “Now they can get ready for their students on Wednesday.”

Cardinal O’Hara in Marple, Bonner-Prendie in Upper Darby, Bishop Shanahan in Downington and Lansdale Catholic in Lansdale are some of the local high schools in the archdiocese. Brothers and sisters of the Catholic order who teach were not affected by the bargaining; neither were school presidents and principals. Teachers in elementary-level schools are not unionized.

Approximately 12,000 high school students return to school this week, starting with a phase-in process when the freshman have start on Wednesday with all students reporting on Friday.

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