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April 25, 2013

Neshannock board, teachers agree on pact

NEW CASTLE — Neshannock Township teachers have a new contract.

At a special meeting this week, school board members voted 9-0 to accept a four-year bargaining agreement.

The document, retroactive to July 1, 2012, when the most recent contract expired, includes a wage freeze for the current year and an average 2.4 percent wage increase over the life of the contract.

Prior to the meeting, “an overwhelming majority” of the district’s 87 teachers voted to accept the contract, said Ed Frye, chief negotiator for the Neshannock Township Education Association.

“We believe that it was fair to both sides,” Frye said. “Both sides are happy with it and it’s nice that we can get back now to educating the kids without these distractions.”

The teachers had been working under the terms of the prior labor agreement since last summer. They had been in negotiations with the district for the past 18 months.

 “I’m pleased that the board accepted the contract by a 9-0 vote,” school board member Karen Houk, chairman of the negotiating committee, said. “This shows faith in the contract. The board’s vote shows support for the community, staff and contract.”

She praised the teachers for their cooperation, noting that they accepted a salary freeze and beginning in the 2013-14 school year agreed to a “small premium share” toward medical insurance benefits.

She said the teachers also gave up one personal day, agreed to changes in use of sick time and how retirees will be compensated for unused sick leave, and the district agreed to reduce instructional time by two days in the 2013-14 school year.

After the board voted on the contract on Tuesday, the members adjusted the 2013-14 school calendar to reflect the two fewer days of instruction time, and held a budget and finance committee meeting to look at possible reductions in the upcoming budget.

The board expects to introduce the 2013-14 budget at its May 9 meeting, and to vote on the budget on June 13.

Dr. Mary Todora, district superintendent, praised the teachers, noting that this year, they accepted “a total freeze,” holding the line on salaries and not advancing on the contract steps for the current school year.

“The teachers and the board and administration believe this show of cooperation will help the district to climb in ratings and continue to be rated as one of the top 100 schools in Pennsylvania,” Todora said.

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

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