Early-bird pact gives Phoenixville teachers 2.5% raises

PHOENIXVILLE — The school board voted 7-1 Monday night to approve an early bird contract with the teachers union that will provide raises of 2.5 percent in each of the pact’s three years.

School Board member Ayisha Sereni cast the only vote against the contract, but offered no public explanation for her vote.

According to the explanation provided by Sylvia Rockwood, the district’s human resources director, the contract, which was ratified by the union membership earlier in the day, will go into effect on July 1, 2021, the day the current contract expires.

Teachers who earn graduate degree credits toward a master’s degree or beyond can see their salaries increased according to the terms of the contract once each calendar year in January in the first two years of the new contract, and in September in the final year, 2023.

Also, teachers on the top salary step on the first pay period of the first two years of the contract will receive a one-time $400 bonus.

Several teacher benefits were eliminated, including a provision from the current contract that reduces a $10,000 bonus for opting out of the district’s health care insurance plan to $4,000.

Also being phased out in the new contract is an existing provision for a $2,000 bonus for a teacher when their spouse opts out of the health insurance plan. Teachers will continue to make a 7 percent contribution towards their health care premium.

Also being eliminated is a health savings account payment for employees, although first-year employees can have the district match up to $250 of their contributions to such an account.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank all of those involved in working to negotiate this contract,” said School Board Vice President Jeesely Soto, who was the board’s lead negotiator.

“Both sides came to the table ready to work together for the benefit of the district, our teachers, students, families, and the Phoenixville community. I appreciate the continued level of respect and professionalism displayed by all involved in this process,” she said.

“On behalf of the Phoenixville Area Education Association, I would like to thank the board for voting to approve the PAEA Contract,” said union president Tammy Kurtz.

“The early bird negotiation process was successful due to the positive mindset and motivation on both sides to find a compromise for a fair and equitable contract,” said Kurtz. “The ratification of this three-year contract allows us all to keep our focus centered on educating the students of Phoenixville during this especially challenging time.”

Added Soto, “I think we all recognize that this pandemic has been challenging and difficult for our community. Through this all, our teachers continue to rise above and beyond. The end result reflects our high regard for our teachers as well as our commitment to our taxpayers.”

Talks last time around, which resulted in the current two-year contract that expires June 30, did not go as smoothly.

The board unanimously approved that pact just a year ago, in November, 2019, after teachers had worked five months without a contract and had been in negotiations with the district for a year.

The 2019 vote came after the board had rejected a 48-page fact-finders report issued a month earlier. At the time, both sides expressed disappointment that the contract reached in 2019 was not longer.

This article first appeared as a post on The Digital Notebook blog.

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