The Waynesboro Area School District and its teachers’ union are entering their third year of contract negotiations, although neither side has plans to meet at the bargaining table soon.
The two sides are at an impasse, which hinges on salaries and benefits. The negotiating teams last met Dec. 12, 2011, and no new bargaining sessions are scheduled.
The last teachers’ contract ran from July 1, 2006, to June 30, 2009, and had a one-year extension that expired June 30, 2010. Negotiations for a new contract started in early 2010.
“Compromise takes two. ... We have moved considerably in our offers. They have barely budged,” said Mike Engle, chief negotiator for Waynesboro Area Education Association, the teachers’ union.
Labor attorney Richard Galtman, the school board’s lead negotiator, said the board is making realistic decisions in the slumped economy.
“We’re not posturing. The district’s proposal is based on what we need to do,” he said.
According to past contract documents, teachers received a 4.5 percent salary increase inclusive of step movement in 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09. The same increase was applied in 2009-10.
Teachers’ salaries are based on a chart with “steps” and “columns.” The steps and columns are negotiable, but they’re essentially based on number of years teaching (steps) and level of education from bachelor’s degree to doctorate (columns).
Since Waynesboro does not have a current contract, the district and teachers are working under what was in place for 2009-10. They are at the same level of pay and benefits as that year, which had a starting salary of $42,511 on the scale.
According to copies obtained by The Herald-Mail, the 2009-10 contract extension called for teachers to have four days of paid leave for personal reasons, with unused personal days paid at the rate of $100 per day through investments, not cash.
In the extension, the school district agrees to pay the full cost of premiums for each employee. (A chart in the extension depicts the insurance rates for spouses and dependents.)
Latest negotiations between the teachers and school board call for the teachers to pay percentages of their premiums.
In the previous contract and extension, the district set aside money for teachers’ educational advancement. Those total dollars range from $163,300 to $176,600 in the contract and its extension.
The contract establishes a work year of 189 days and a workday of 7 1/2 hours inclusive of a 30-minute, uninterrupted lunch.
“The time for the additional activities shall be kept within reasonable limits,” the contract states.
In addition to salaries and benefits, the previous contract includes paid sabbatical, a day for “emergency leave,” child rearing without pay, a prep period of 40 to 45 minutes, one day of professional absence, retirement or death pay, and a grievances policy.
A ‘labor dispute’
“Previous boards valued their teachers and wanted to reach a fair middle ground. ... This board does not value their teachers or value maintaining quality public education,” Engle wrote in an email.
Galtman said that assertion is untrue.
“It has nothing to do with education. It’s a labor dispute,” he said.
In previous years, the district had a higher tax collection rate, as well as stable local and state revenue streams, Galtman said. It is now restricted by caps on property tax increases and increased contributions to a state retirement system, he said.
Employees want increases comparable to other years, “but the norm isn’t the same as previous years,” he said.
Galtman said the school board wants to tie any pay increase to savings realized through changes to health insurance offerings. He said the school board will not include retroactive pay in any of its proposals.
“You don’t pay for a salary increase one time, you pay for it ongoing,” Galtman said.
What are the options as the impasse continues?
Engle said the teachers can “maintain the status quo” out of concerns about the school board’s last proposal, which he said would “mean we would actually take home less than what we do now.” The teachers could strike or call for another round of fact-finding.
Engle declined to elaborate on the possibility of teachers striking. They would be required under state law to give the superintendent 48 hours notice prior to a strike.
Galtman said it is time for the school board to start hammering out its 2012-13 budget. Decisions made in that process will be ones over which the district does not have a duty to bargain.
Neither party appears to be making moves toward binding arbitration.
“To put (decisions) in the hands of an arbitrator would be ceding the authority the voters put in the hands of the board. It’d put it with a person with no interests in the school district, ... and the arbitrator will not be answerable to the public,” Galtman said.
“For arbitration, the board and the association would both have to agree to utilize that process. The board ignored a (fact-finder’s) opinion last time, and they have not shown any willingness to compromise,” Engle wrote.
One thing on which Galtman and Engle agree is that a stable school district affects a community’s economy.
“The first thing you ask your Realtor is, ‘What are the taxes like, and how is the school district?,’ not necessarily in that order,” Galtman said.
“One of the first things home buyers ask when moving to an area is, ‘What are the schools like?’ These constant headlines (about a contract dispute) will cause new home buyers to look in other districts, even though we have the lowest tax rate in the county, except Fannett-Metal,” Engle said.
In the past, people chose to live in Waynesboro due to the quality and direction of its school system, he said.
The public should care about bargaining because it affects quality of life and whether the district is fair to employees and taxpayers, and because lines get drawn, Galtman said.
Students, meanwhile, will remain unaware of the issues because everyone involved is acting with professionalism, Galtman said.
“It has nothing to do with what goes on in a classroom,” he said.
No new negotiating sessions have been scheduled.
“We will not have a session scheduled unless one party or the other has a new proposal to discuss. We’ll meet when there is something to talk about,” Galtman said.
“The teachers recognize that these are tough economic times, which is why we have already made considerable concessions,” Engle said. “In the past bargaining sessions, we feel the board has not responded with the same spirit of compromise, and now refuses to even meet with us. We are ready and willing to return to the table to reach a fair and equitable contract.”
Waynesboro Area Education Association
Mike Engle, high school science teacher
Jessica Bryan, middle school learning support teacher
Angie Cales, Fairview Elementary School teacher
Marcia Bender, Pennsylvania State Education Association representative
Waynesboro Area School Board
Leland Lemley, school board member
Billie Finn, school board member
Chris Lind, school board member
James Robertson, district superintendent
Robert Walker, district business administrator
Richard Galtman, labor attorney
Each side's salary proposal and the cost to the district
The costs presented by the Waynesboro Area Education build on each other. In theory, a teacher who receives a pay increase one year would have a higher base salary the following year on which he or she could get another raise.
The school board’s presentation is independent of previous years.
Waynesboro Area Education Association’s proposal
2010-11: 0 percent with step the last pay of last year. Cost is $6,865.
2011-12: 1.55 percent raise on scale, plus step of 1.2 percent. Cost is $435,633.
2012-13: 2.4 percent raise on scale, plus step of 1.1 percent. Cost is $570,398.
2013-14: 2.75 percent raise on scale, plus 1 percent step. Cost is $632,612.
Waynesboro Area School Board’s proposal
2010-11: No pay or classification change.
2011-12: Up to $600 raise for each teacher, but any pay increase would only affect current or future pay periods. No step or column movement. Cost is $166,950*
2012-13: $600 raise for each teacher. No step or column movement.
Cost is $166,950
*Amount is for the entire year, but the total will be less because it will be prorated to only affect current or future pay periods.
Negotiation process can be costly
From meetings to research, telephone calls and creating documents, negotiating teacher contracts can be an arduous, and at times costly, endeavor.
The Waynesboro Area School Board and its teachers’ union, the Waynesboro Area Education Association, have been negotiating since early 2010.
The union, which represents about 278 teachers, is assisted by an employee of the Pennsylvania State Education Association. She is paid through union dues.
“She helps us interpret the contract, and helps us determine what’s legal and not legal,” said Mike Engle, a member of the Waynesboro Area Education Association.
The school district has paid a New Britain, Pa., law firm at least $31,991 since negotiations began, according to documents obtained by The Herald-Mail through an Open Records request.
The school board is represented by Richard Galtman of Sweet, Stevens, Katz & Williams at an hourly rate of $185.
Examples of his billed time include:
• $166.50 for emailing on Jan. 3, 2011
• $185 to review and analyze budget issues in conjunction with negotiations on Feb. 17, 2011
• $1,572.50 for an 8 1/2-hour negotiating session April 13, 2011
• $37 to talk with a reporter for 20 minutes on Sept. 21, 2011
Q: Do you consider finalizing a contract to be a priority? Why or why not?
A: “I think it’s a priority, but it takes two sides to make it work,” said Waynesboro Area School Board President Edward Wilson.
Wilson is not a member of the school board’s negotiating team, so he said he’s not fully versed in the sticking points. He said the board entrusted its negotiating team to hammer out a contract.
“We rely on the committees when they come before us,” he said.
A: Mike Engle from the Waynesboro Area Education Association said the teachers do not want a dragged-out process.
“It’s a high priority. We very much want to finalize a contract, but we want a fair contract because what they’re offering us now would send us backward,” Engle said.
The school board always ends up paying out less than anticipated in salaries and benefits because of retirements and resignations, Engle said.
“They’ve always spent less than what was budgeted,” he said.