BY MARYALICE MELI MAMELI@NCNEWSONLINE.COM





The legal language in Ellwood City's agreement with its teachers is not finalized, but both sides agree on one thing. "Neither side got everything it wanted," said Linda Benetas, union representative with the Pennsylvania State Education Association. That was the view May 11 of school board president, David Reese, and of Sam Barry, president of the Ellwood Area Education Association, the union representing 144 teachers. The two sides verbally agreed to the four-year contract that night. "Both sides have reservations," Reese said then. At the time, officials were not ready to make the details public. Even now, Benetas said, the union has not signed off on the agreement. She was, therefore, reluctant to make much of it public. However, the district released a copy of the contract. According to the district's copy, which Benetas did not dispute, the terms are effective July 1, 2005, and extend to June 30, 2009. The main issues that reflect change and on which the talks became stalled are wages and health care. Benetas said no change in health-care benefits will occur in the first three years of the contract. In the final year, the teachers will begin to pay toward the monthly medical insurance premium. Individuals will pay $20 a month and families, $25. Changes in co-payments will increase over the life of the contract, she said. The amounts vary according to the kind of service, generally from $10 to $15, except for emergency room service, with a co-payment of $50. Teachers also are rewarded for staying healthy. Those who miss two or fewer days get a $150 annual bonus and those with no more than three days absent, get a $100 bonus. For a variety of educational activities performed by teachers beyond the 7.5-hour day or the 186-day school year, the hourly rate will be $19.90 this year and go up 60 cents an hour next year and 75 cents an hour in each of the last two years. As for wages, the salary schedule for this year provides teachers at step one:





With a bachelor's degree, $35,700





With a master's degree, $36,011





With 30 graduate credits beyond a master's degree, $36,011 The starting salary, or step one, increases over the four years by about a half-percent each year. From $35,700, a new teacher will go to $35,900 next year, $36,000 the third year and, finally, to $36,200 in the final year of the contract. The largest increase occurs between steps 16 and 17 each year. This year, step 16 goes from $56,431 to $63,468 or 8 percent; next year, the increase is 7 percent, then 6.7 percent and 6.9 percent in the final contract year, putting it at $66,600. Once at the top of the scale, the pay increases thereafter are about one to two percent annually. Teachers with 17 years reach the top of the pay scale and, this year, will receive:





$63,468 with a bachelor's degree





$64,126 with a master's degree





$64,783 for a master's degree plus 30 more credits.



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