NANTICOKE — Greater Nanticoke Area teachers and the School Board quietly hammered out and approved a five-year contract that will have teachers paying a percentage of their health insurance premiums in 2015-16, District negotiator Attorney Jack Dean said.
The contract also keeps teachers at their current step for the first two years, denying many of them raises built into the contract annually for the first 19 years with the district. The average step raise is 1.5 percent, Dean said.
Teachers are paid in a “step/column” system, getting raises every year for a set number of years and for increased education beyond a bachelor’s degree based on number of credits earned. The number of steps and columns vary from district to district, and the percentage of the raise can vary from step to step and column to column within a district. Greater Nanticoke’s matrix has a total of 20 steps and nine columns.
In exchange for the step freeze, teachers will get flat raises of $1,260 each of the first two years. After the two years, they will resume climbing the steps from the same spot they were at the start of the freeze. So a teacher who is on step 10 this year will remain there for two more years, then bump up to step 11 in the third year of the contract.
The contract calls for an average raise of 2.99 percent each of the last two years, Dean said, noting that half of that is already built into the step system, so the deal essentially gives an additional raise of almost 1.5 percent above the existing pay matrix.
The premium sharing, still a rarity in area teacher contracts, begins with teachers paying 1.5 percent of their premium in 2015-16. The rate goes up to 2 percent for the last two years of the contract.
Teachers had already agreed to increased deductibles and co-pays in the last contract, which ran from 2010 through this summer.
The two sides approved the contract Thursday night, but minor wording issues are still being worked out, so the documents are not yet public, Dean said.
Negotiations were primarily done directly between teams set up by the board and the union, Dean said. The two sides would come to an agreement and then ask Dean and his union counterpart, Virginia Cowley of the Pennsylvania State Education Association Northeast Region office, to hammer out language details.
“The board committee and the professional staff committee were really the driving forces,” Dean said. “They did a nice job.”
Cowley agreed. “They were able to sit across the table and come up with an agreement that is fair to the teachers and the taxpayers,” Cowley said.