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In a special meeting Wednesday morning, January 14, 2015 the Ridley School Board (RSB) voted again to reject the report and recommendations of a State appointed Fact Finder. The Ridley Education Association (REA) members have worked without a contract since June 30, 2014.
The Fact Finder's report says the RSB and REA have reached agreement on 16 issues but they're were unable to see eye to eye on three remaining points: teacher directed preparation time, wages and medical benefits.
According to the story by the DelCoTimes, Timothy Brown’s fact finder;s report says “The goal of the district in these negotiations remains clear: a sustainable multi-year contract that balances the needs of the taxpaying community and the dedicated teachers of this district,” the board said at the meeting in a prepared statement. “In achieving the goal, under no circumstances will the board tax its way to a contract or dip into the fund balance to pay for a contract. It is clear that with these items remaining that a number of contractual items have successfully been resolved. The board’s negotiating team seeks to return to the negotiating table to finalize a collective bargaining agreement that is fair and equitable to the association members and the Ridley taxpayers.”
The statement notes that the economic realities faced by the school district must not be dismissed, simply because it is permitted to raise taxes under Act 1.
“The continued increase of local property taxes is no longer possible, as homeowners and businesses have struggled to support the nearly 75 percent local revenue share,” the statement continues. “The Ridley School District is ranked the ninth highest in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for property tax burden.”
School board President Michael Capozzoli said the board rejected the fact-finding report because it does not agree with it. He said the salary demands are the highest the board ever negotiated.
“Salary and benefits are the main points as far as the board is concerned,” Capozzoli said. “We are trying to set up a meeting (with the education association) right now.”
The salary increases the REA proposes for the most senior/educated bargaining unit members are: school year 2014-15, $1,000; 2015-16, $1,000; 2016-17, $1,500; 2017-18, $1,500.
The district’s salary proposals are: school year 2014-15, $500; 2015-16, $750; 2016-17, $500; 2017-18, $500.
The fact-finder’s salary recommendations for teachers with master’s degrees plus 45 credits are: school year 2014-15, $750; 2014-16, $750; 2016-17, $1,000; 2017-18, $1,250.
On the matter of health care benefits, the district proposes education association contributions of 4 percent for school years 2014-15, 2016-17 and 2017-18, with zero contribution in 2015-16. The education association proposes the same increases in benefit contributions as the district. However, as in the case with the district, the association packages its proposal on the health care issue with its proposals on wages and preparation time. Brown recommends that the annual increase in employee health care contribution be at the levels jointly proposed by both the district and the education association.
Addressing the guaranteed teacher preparation time, Brown noted the district takes the position that it is not required to agree with the association on any guarantee of teacher-directed preparation time, maintaining this falls under inherent managerial policy within the scope of bargaining in the collective-bargaining law. Brown’s report on this matter recommends a more narrow issue of Ridley Middle School teacher preparation time. He recommends the agreement on prep time remain as is and that the school district and the association agree to continue to meet and discuss “in good faith” on the prep-time issue with the initial focus of addressing the needs of teacher preparation time at the middle school level.
Education association President Brian Forney said he was disappointed at the board’s action Wednesday.
“I’m perplexed that they would vote down the fact-finder’s report when they (the board) got most of what they were asking for,” Forney said, adding that teacher directed prep time is the main focus for the education association.