Abington Journal

Abington Heights School Board approves new teachers’ contract, 18-19 budget

CLARKS GREEN — Members of the Abington Heights School Board voted, 6-2, to approve a collective bargaining agreement with the Abington Heights Education Association (AHEA) during a regular meeting June 27. The terms of the agreement are effective, retroactive, from Sept. 1, 2017 through Aug. 31, 2022.

Louise Brzuchalski, Michele Pusateri, Warren Acker, Michael Fleming, Gregory Madensky and Board President Cathy Ann Hardaway voted in favor of the contract. Michele Tierney and Philip Robson voted against it.

“Our philosophy has always been three years,” Tierney said. “Unfortunately, for me, five years is too painful. Although my goal has always been to give our teachers a fair, competitive raise, I cannot vote for this contract.”

Per the parameters of the contract, AHEA members will receive a 2 percent retroactive raise for the 2017-18 school year, but will not be required to make any payments toward their benefit plan. In the 2018-19 school year, they will receive a 2.5 percent raise and pay $50 per month contribution toward health care; they will receive a 2.75 percent raise and pay $65 per month toward health care benefits in 2019-20; and they will receive a 3 percent raise and pay $80 per month toward health care benefits in 2020-21 and 2021-22.

“We were looking for $80 per month toward health care,” Hardaway said. “The teachers were not willing to start at that, they’re starting at $50, but we were able to bring them to $80 in two years, the same as our administrators pay, so that was important to us.

“There won’t be a strike and that’s a relief to our teachers and parents. We’ll have students, beginning in ninth grade, who will never have to suffer through a strike in high school. Those things are important for our community.”

AHEA President Tim Moher was also satisfied with the terms of the agreement, specifically the length of the contract. The previous teachers’ contract expired Aug. 31, 2017.

“We found a place that we view as a true compromise,” he said. “Both sides got a little bit of what they needed to make this deal work. Our teachers were able to get the raises that were necessary in order to remain competitive, with local school district salaries, and the school board was able to get some premium share which was one of its goals.

“We’re looking forward to the start of next school year, right on time, and having the next few years with this new contract.”

Members of the board voted, 7-1, to approve a final budget of $47,374,362 for the 2018-19 school year with a tax increase of 1.44 percent. The district’s new millage rate is 122.91.

A mill is a $1 tax on every $1,000 of assessed property value. Per Business Manager James Mirabelli, the increased cost per household will be $35 based on average assessed value.

Brzuchalski, Pusateri, Acker, Tierney, Fleming, Madensky and Hardaway voted in favor of the budget. Robson voted against it.

During a board report, Tierney announced the Abington Heights Educational Improvement Organization (AEIO) is looking for two community residents to sit on the board. Meetings are held at 8 a.m. on the second Wednesday of each month at the administration building.

“The AEIO is a great organization that helps, through tax credited funds, to enhance to education system for the district,” Tierney said. “It’s been around for approximately 18 years and the tax dollars really help out some great programs.”

During public participation, Joseph Polizzi, of Clarks Summit, expressed his concerns regarding the lack of a librarians in the district.

“It’s a serious and significant concern to me that in this school district that has six schools there are no librarians employed. I’d call it a fiscal decision as well as an ideological decision. I think libraries are important and hiring a minimum of one librarian would be a valuable addition.

“I feel that, without librarians, teachers are put in positions to be doing additional work where librarians could be providing support.”

Hardaway announced there are no additional dollars in the budget for librarians, principals or nurses.

“There are limits to our resources,” Abington Heights Superintendent Michael Mahon said. “It’s a balance and we’ve expanded in some areas.”

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By Robert Tomkavage

rtomkavage@timesleader.com

Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.