After working under the terms of their expired contract for nearly two years, Hatboro-Horsham School District teachers on Monday reached a settlement with the school board.
Following an affirmative vote Monday by the Hatboro-Horsham Education Association, the union that represents the district’s 411 teachers, the school board voted unanimously Monday night to approve a four-year teacher contract spanning the 2009-2010 through the 2012-2013 school years. Board member Mark Opalisky cast his vote via conference call.
Under the ratified contract, teachers will receive average annual salary boosts of 2.48 percent, although a salary freeze will be put in place for the 2011-2012 school year. For the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years, teachers will receive 25 percent of the step movement that they would have otherwise earned, according to district business administrator Bob Reichert.
Beginning in September, teachers will also begin contributing higher amounts to health care coverage. Two of the district’s health care plans require a 3 percent employee contribution increase effective in September; and an additional 2 percent employee contribution for the 2012-2013 school year.
“Yay,” was the happy gesture voiced by a beaming Board President Barbara LaSorsa following the board’s vote.
“I know this hasn’t been easy,” LaSorsa said to union President Jackie Anderson, who was seated in the auditorium during the meeting. “The board thanks you for what you have done.”
After the meeting, Anderson said that 94 percent of the district’s 411 teachers voted Monday, although she declined to announce the final vote until members were notified of the results.
Anderson said the approved contract was much different from where the two sides started two years ago in terms of pay. “Initially there was no salary scale,” Anderson said.
One of the features of the new contract is a 4 percent retroactive salary increase for 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 for top-level teachers who opt to retire at the end of this school year.
Anderson, a district teacher of 41 years, said she did not know how many teachers would opt for early retirement – herself included.
“I haven’t decided what I’m going to do,” she said.
District business administrator Bob Reichert said after the meeting that early retirements alone would not close the projected in the 2011-2012 school budget.
But, without a settlement, “We wouldn’t see increases in co-pays or retirements,” Reichert said.
Later in the meeting, Griffin outlined the district's enrollment decreases - by 530 students - over the last 10 years. He said the drop equates to more than a 9 percent decrease in the number of pupils. Projections for 2011-2012 show 5,028 students and 4,982 students for 2012-2013.
Griffin said that with the enrollments drops and the retirement incentive, he is hopeful that furloughing additional teachers will not be necessary.
In addition to salary increases and higher employee health care contributions, the teacher contract also puts in place “value-added compensation” and the implementation of a more comprehensive performance evaluation system. Superintendent Curtis Griffin said the district and the association agree that moving to the state’s rating and performance system is a “scenario worth investigation.”
The lengthy contract stalemate has been ongoing through two superintendents and two school board presidents. Countless hours have been spent on both sides haggling, negotiating and as Superintendent Curtis Griffin put it Monday, finding a “solution.”
“The past two and a half years have been extremely difficult for our school district,” Griffin said. “There have been challenges that we have faced … the desire all along was to solve the contract.”
Officials said the entire teacher contract would be posted on the district Web site Tuesday.
In other business, the board tabled a previous proposal to consider the installation of artificial turf at Hatters stadium, meaning the upcomingevent can be held there as planned.
“After looking at everything, we have decided that more information is needed,” LaSorsa said to applause in the crowd.