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MARION CENTER: School board, union agree on pact

by on March 18, 2014 11:00 AM

MARION CENTER — The Marion Center Area school directors and the district’s education association Monday approved an early bird three-year labor agreement for the teachers.

Representatives for the school district and the Marion Center Area Education Association had been negotiating a new contract since November and, in a joint statement Monday evening, the two sides said mutual interest and cooperation produced what was termed “a fair and reasonable contract.”

The current labor pact extends to August. The new contract starts July 1 and runs through June 30, 2017.

“This early agreement will allow teachers and administrators to focus all attention on what matters most — assisting students in attaining academic success,” the two sides said in the joint statement.

The new contract provides overall average annual salary increases of 3.12 percent over the length of the contract for the district’s 114 teachers. The overall annual increased cost to the district will be 3.19 percent for salaries and health care expenses.

Also under the new labor agreement, a High Deductible Health Care Plan/Health Savings Account will be implemented. The new plan will have a $2,500 deductible for families and a $1,250 deductible for individuals and the district will pay 72 percent of the deductibles annually, according to district business manager Richard Martini.

Martini said the new HD/HSA is a movement toward having employees become more of a participant in the management of their health care plan. Teachers now pay a share of health care cost premiums but no deductible. Under the new contact they will have a deductible but no cost share.

Martini said that under the HD/HSA, the district’s health care premiums will decrease about 20 percent, and the district will share that savings with the teachers.

Through the Health Savings Account portion of the plan, teachers may voluntarily contribute pre-tax dollars to an account for qualified medical expenses.

Kristy Hopper, president of the MCAEA, said the application fee for the HD/HSA plan — estimated to be about $5 per month per member — will be paid entirely by the district for the 2014-15 school year, and the district and employees will equally share the application fees in the final two years of the pact.

The contract also calls for an additional teacher day to be added to the school year beginning this fall.

Before the vote, director Ronald Oswald said he would support passage of the new contract but did not agree that the district should pay 72 percent of the deductibles.

“I am not happy with this section of it,” Oswald said.

There were no “nays” for the contract during a voice vote. Directors Anthony Moretti, Robert Neese and Robert Young were absent.

Hopper said the MCAEA’s members “overwhelmingly” approved the contract in their vote earlier in the evening.

“Our focus is always on the students,” Hopper said following the school board vote on the labor agreement. “It helps not to have this in the back of our minds.”

“We’re here to support education,” said board President Gregg Sacco, adding that reaching a new collective bargaining agreement takes a significant distraction out of the way.

The new contract, he said, looks a lot like what a fact finder would probably have come up with. And Sacco credited district Superintendent Dr. Frank Garritano and Martini with considerable help and guidance in reaching the new contract.

Following the directors’ vote, members of both sides thanked the other for their cooperation during the negotiations.

The early bird settlement is in marked contrast to the process that produced the labor agreement now in effect. In May 2012, the directors and teachers accepted the recommendations of a Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board fact finder for a new contract. The two sides had been trying to settle a new labor agreement since January 2010, and the teachers worked roughly 22 months under the terms of their old contract that had expired in July 2010.

Also at Monday’s board work session, the directors heard a presentation by Charles Adamchik, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, on new math textbooks being considered for grades kindergarten through 12.

Adamchik said the district is now on a six-year cycle of reviewing curriculum and purchasing new textbooks and materials in each of the several subject areas.

That way, he said, “We’ll always have an updated curriculum.”

Representatives from three textbook companies made presentations to the district’s math teachers and the teachers and administrators selected 15 textbooks they’d like the district to purchase. The texts, Adamchik said, provide comprehensive coverage of the new Pennsylvania Common Core concepts and will challenge students with a more rigorous curriculum.

The board is expected to act on the textbook purchases at its April meeting.

And the directors are also considering an agreement to allow students in junior high through 12th grade in the Penns Manor district to compete in the Marion Center district’s wrestling program.

High school Principal Matthew Jioio told the directors the cost to the Penns Manor district would be about $836 per wrestler for one to five students participating in Marion Center’s program. The cost per wrestler will decrease as the number of Penns Manor students participating increases, Jioio said.

Randy Wells has been a reporter and staff writer at The Indiana Gazette since 1988. His regular assignments include coverage of the Indiana County commissioners, Indiana Borough council and the Marion Center Area School District. His email address is
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