WRIGHT TWP. — Planned high school program cuts and teacher furloughs likely have been averted thanks to a one-year tentative deal approved by the teachers union Thursday that should also get board approval May 24, Crestwood School Board President Bill Jones said.
“The union accepted a tentative agreement that we worked out,” Jones said. Under the plan, “all programs would be restored, and I think it is going to give us the flexibility to really help us next year, too.”
Neither Jones nor school board solicitor Jack Dean would reveal details about the agreement because it must still be brought to the full school board for approval, though Jones said he is confident it will win board support. Jones did say it involved arrangements regarding wages and “some benefits,” as well as an early retirement incentive.
“Everyone gave a little,” Dean said. “Since the last board meeting we have had a lot of give and take, and it has been a very productive process.”
“It’s a good agreement for the kids and the taxpayers,” Jones added. “We will be a lot better off financially.” Jones praised union president Bill Kane and lead negotiator Virginia Cowley, the representative helping with negotiations from the Pennsylvania State Education Association Northeast Region office.
“We sat down face to face,” Jones said. “They know we are not in good financial shape because of state funding. We’re at the point where raising taxes isn’t going to fix the problem.”
Dean also praised the union leaders, calling the negotiations “cordial.”
At one point in the long process of drawing up a budget for the 2018-19 school year, the board had talked of furloughing 13 teachers. Superintendent Joseph Gorham blamed a decade of declining state funding in tandem with escalating requirements that added to the district’s costs.
At a marathon meeting last month, the board heard hours of criticism from residents regarding spending priorities, then voted to end the high school industrial arts/technology education program, furloughing two teachers, and the family and consumer science program, furloughing another teacher. The board also voted to furlough a Spanish teacher, though Gorham said that was due to declining enrollment in the classes.
During that meeting, business consultant Al Melone said the cuts would save about $477,000 next year.
Jones said those program cuts and furloughs will be averted once the board approves the tentative deal.
“We worked on this for two months. We cut costs as far as we could. We’re changing contracts, we’re changing insurance. We are working to save every nickel we can.”
Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish