KCSD finalizes new teachers’ contract
By Steven Hoffman
The Kennett Consolidated School District and the Kennett Education Association have reached a deal on a new teachers’ contract. The school board ratified the pact at its meeting on April 14. The education association had approved the agreement by a “yes” vote on April 10.
The deal is retroactive to July 1, 2012 and extends through June 30, 2016.
School board president Heather Schaen said that the deal represents the culmination of two years of hard work on negations over salary, benefits, and other contractual issues. Teachers in the district have been working without a contract since the previous collective bargaining agreement expired on June 30, 2012.
“Our goal on the Kennett Consolidated School Board is to provide the the highest level of excellence in education as well as to attract and retain the best educators possible, while being fiscally responsible for the Kennett Community,” Schaen said. “The Kennett Consolidated School District's administration and the Kennett Education Association worked respectfully and patiently in partnership to reach a fair contract agreement for all.”
There will be no salary increases for teachers for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years. There will be a contract increase of 2.7 percent during the 2014-15 school year and another 2.7 percent increase in 2015-16, the final year of the contract.
Schaen and board member Michael Finnegan both lauded the teachers for maintaining a professional partnership with the district throughout the negotiations.
“It’s been a very professional negotiating process and I think that other school districts might be able to look at this…as a model of how the negations can be done,” Finnegan said.
Superintendent Dr. Tomasetti agreed, pointing out that teachers never allowed the absence of a contract to affect their performance in the classroom.
“Throughout the two years, the instructional focus remained strong,” Tomasetti said. “We have been without a contractual agreement with our teachers for the past two years and throughout this time our dedicated educators have kept their focus on teaching our children. As we have witnessed in the past, this commitment transcended hours outside the workday and I am thankful to work with such a dedicated group of professionals.”
The school district issued a press release on Tuesday outlining some of the changes in the new contract. In an effort to control costs, teachers have agreed to changes in benefits. The prescription drug plan will change to a 5/30/45 plan with a 30-day maximum supply and a mandatory mail-in program for maintenance prescription drugs, requiring two co-payments for a three-month supply. The district's base plan for medical benefits will move to a Blue Cross/Blue Shield Personal Choice 20/30/70 plan in the 2014-15 school year. Beginning in the 2015-16 school year, employees will contribute 12 percent toward their medical coverage and for those opting for one of the buy-up plans, Personal Choice Option 7 or Personal Choice Option 10/20/70, they will incur all the additional costs associated with this benefit.
Regarding tuition reimbursement, during the 2014-15 school year, a cap has been placed on the number of yearly reimbursable credits to 12 per year for those teachers pursuing their permanent certification or an earned Master's degree and up to nine credits beyond a Master's degree. In the 2015-16 school year, those teachers pursuing credits beyond a Master's degree will be limited to $3,250 per year in tuition reimbursements.
Teachers will continue to work 190 days a year and the work day will increase from seven hours and fifteen minutes per day to seven hours and twenty minutes per day in the 2014-15 school year and seven hours and twenty-five minutes per day in the 2015-16 school year.
Michael Kelly, the president of the Kennett Education Association, talked about how the district and teachers collaborated to come up with a contract that was workable for everyone.
“The length of this protracted negotiations process is unprecedented in the history of the relationship between the Kennett Consolidated School District and the Kennett Education Association,” Kelly said. “The resulting contract reflects great sacrifices on the part of the Kennett Education Association members, including a pay freeze over the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years. Since the 2012-13 school year, members have not been compensated for earned education credentials and have agreed to limited compensation for further education. Additionally, Kennett Education Association members have agreed to reductions in health care and modest pay increases over the remaining two years of the contract. These sacrifices reflect the ongoing commitment of the Kennett Education Association to uninterrupted quality education for Kennett students and respect for the Kennett community.”
The Kennett School Board also unanimously approved a proposed final budget for the 2014-2015 school year at the April 14 meeting, and with the new contract factored in, anticipated expenditures dropped slightly.
The proposed $76 million budget will require a tax increase of 2.05 percent. If no other changes are made to the budget, the millage rate will increase .56 mills, from 27.4520 mills for the current year to 28.0160 mills for the 2014-2015 school year.
The proposed final budget is $200,000 less than the preliminary budget that the school board adopted three months ago.
“This is the smallest increase since 2007 and the second smallest increase in the last ten years,” noted school board member Michael Finnegan, who serves on the district’s Finance Committee.
For the owner of the average residential property in the district there will be an increase of $103 in the tax bill. The average tax bill for the current year is $5,021 and that will increase to $5,124 next year.
The proposed budget is up for review and comment by the public for at least 30 days before the school board adopts a final budget. The board is expected to approve the final budget in June, and the hope is that even more expenditure reductions can be found before the final budget is adopted.
In other business, Tomasetti reported that the Pittsburgh Business Times recently included the Kennett Consolidated School District on its list of overachieving school districts. Kennett placed 49th out of the 500 school districts in the state. The rankings take into account various factors, including the student-achievement growth from one year to the next and the poverty level of the district to determine the rankings.
“I think we've been ranked every year since I've been here,” Tomasetti said, adding that the designation as an overachieving district is a tribute to the hard work of teachers, students, and parents.
Tomasetti also said that the board is holding a special meeting next Monday, April 21 to discuss whether to outsource some food-service services. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the District Office.
The school board signed off on the district’s new Special Education Plan, which is a component of the comprehensive planning that is required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. This plan is also required by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs to assure that the district is in compliance with Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) regulations. The plan is an outline for how the district will meet all the requirements of IDEA for the next three years. It will be submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Education by May 1.