School Board Approves Contract with Teachers' Union, Early Retirement Incentive Program
More than two years of negotiations culminated in the State College Area School Board of Directors unanimous approval of the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the State College Area Education Association Monday night.
The board met for its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at 131 W. Nittany Ave. and delved right into key action items – the teacher's contract and an early retirement incentive program for district employees. The latter was initially presented as an item for discussion but the board moved it to a vote and approved the action.
Earlier in January, the board and SCAEA separately accepted an appointed fact-finder's report that laid the foundation for the new contract, which will last the next four years, retroactive to July 2011, through June 30, 2013.
According to a SCAEA press release, the new contract, which includes a wage freeze in 2011-12, provides for an average 2.1 percent salary increase during the next four years and will save the district $630,000 annually because of changes made to health care plans.
"The board is pleased to conclude a long and challenging collective bargaining process with SCAEA. We value our teachers and look forward to an ongoing professional relationship with mutual respect," said board president Penni Fishbaine.
Also unanimously approved was the early retirement incentive program as presented by district administration. The program is a step taken by the district to help offset costs in salaries and benefits for future years. An early retirement incentive program would offer a payment to employees who meet certain criteria in exchange for their retirement on or before June 30, 2013.
Some of the advantages, as pointed out by district officials, include immediate savings by replacing the employee with an a new faculty member who makes a lower starting salary, or the elimination of a position following a zero based staffing review as directed by the board. The program also allows for reorganization of the workforce to better meet the current needs and more efficiently utilize resource levels with the steadily declining student enrollment in the district. Early retirement incentive programs have recently been successful in various districts throughout Pennsylvania, according to district officials.
Board members discussed the first community forum on the high school project that was held on Wednesday and included tours of both the North and South Buildings followed by the district's educational planner, Amy Yurko, talking about what she has gleaned from students abou the changes they would like to see once and if the high school is renovated.
A referendum is planned for the fall, where State College residents will be given one question to vote yes or no on that determines the fate of the high school project.
Currently, a total cost for the project is not available but should be revealed in coming weeks. The next forum is on Feb. 28.
Board member Jim Pawelczyk made the point that when asked asked for their response to many questions about the high school's programs and facilities, many of the community forum participants said they need more information. The board's intent is to include the community as much as possible in the process so that they know everything about the plans for the high school renovations come referendum time.
The board also discussed 2013-14 budget development and received an update on its timeline. Most notably, Gov. Tom Corbett is expected to announce his proposed budget in February. The budget proposal plays a large part in how the district can move forward with its budget. In recent years, sweeping cuts to education left many schools on all levels in a situation where administrations had to make major changes because of a drastic drop in funding.
The meeting was held despite the district closing all of its schools because of inclement weather on Monday.