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Penn-Trafford board OKs 6-year teacher contract

October 13, 2018

Penn-Trafford’s 239 teachers have a new, six-year contract that will give them annual average raises of 3.26 percent and pays $105,300 to teachers at the top of the pay scale with 27 years of service and a master’s degree.

The Penn-Trafford School Board on Monday approved the pact by a 6-2 vote, with directors James Matarazzo and Bill Leonard as the dissenters. Director Dallas Leonard was absent from the meeting. The agreement is retroactive to July 1 and expires June 30, 2024.

The Penn-Trafford Education Association approved the tentative agreement Friday by an overwhelming vote, said Shaun Rinier, president of the teachers’ union.

The agreement may require Penn-Trafford to raise real estate taxes for the 2019-20 school year, unless the school district can make sufficient cuts to expenditures, school board president Phil Kochasic said. But, it is a certainty that the cost of the agreement will force the district to raise taxes during the life of the contract, Kochasic said. The school board raised property taxes by 1.5 mills for the current school year.

“I think, in the end, both sides had to compromise ... and that’s what makes this a fair deal,” said Director Toni Issig, a member of the board’s negotiating team.

“It’s good to come to a compromise,” Kochasic said.

Rinier, however, described the negotiations as being “very adversarial” in the beginning.

“There was a lack of respect for teachers,” Rinier said.

Leonard said he opposed the agreement because he wanted a contract that spanned fewer years because his term is only four years long.

“It was a vote of conscience,” Leonard said.

Matarazzo, a Gateway High School teacher for 10 years, said he opposed the contract because most of the money goes to the teachers at the top of the pay scale. Some teachers will be receiving about $65,000, while others with 20 years of service will get about $96,500.

“I have a problem with that,” Matarazzo said, claiming it is not fair to younger teachers. He said Penn-Trafford has among the lowest starting salaries of area school districts, but is among the highest for teachers with the most seniority.

The school district currently has 85 teachers at the top of the scale -- around $90,000 -- and the new pact will see about 145 teachers at the top of the salary scale by the time it expires, Rinier said. The agreement gives teachers money for longevity of service, once they reach the 17th salary step, Rinier said.

“That is why I put the money there,” Rinier said.

The union planned to vote on a new contract two weeks ago, but that vote was canceled because of a concern that teachers already on the first level of the 17-step salary scale wouldn’t be able to advance to another level this school year. Union leadership about two weeks ago threatened a possible strike but quickly decided to continue negotiations.

Superintendent Matt Harris said there are salary raises at all steps of the agreement.

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