WB Area School District teachers approve contract proposal; board vote next

By Mark Guydish - [email protected]
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The Wilkes-Barre Area School District posted the terms of a teacher contract proposal online Tuesday, hours before the union met to approve the offer. The union has been working under the terms of a contract that expired in September 2017.

It is not common for area districts and unions to post proposals prior to votes by the union or the board, though critics have often suggested the proposals should be made public by both sides so citizens know what is on the table.

In an email, District Superintendent Brian Costello said the posting was “the latest district proposal,” and the union negotiating committee “has spent a tremendous amount of time working with the district in an effort to take a proposal to their membership to vote.”

Costello also wrote the district told union leadership “back in early April that we would begin posting proposals online to be transparent and to make sure all parties were informed properly.”

The proposal has a pay freeze — of a sort — the first two years, with no “step” movement for 2017-18 or 2018-19. Teacher contracts usually have step and column raises built in. Step raises are increases for each year of the contract for most teachers, while column raises are increases when a teacher earns a specific number of college credits beyond a bachelor’s degree.

There are always a fixed number of step raises and a fixed number of column raises. The current Wilkes-Barre Area contract, effective from Sept. 1, 2013, through Aug. 31, 2017, had 15 steps and 11 columns, though step one/column one is the lowest starting pay, not a raise in pay. Teachers who reach the top of the step/column system generally see raises only when they are built into a new contract.

But the proposal posted online does grant “incentive pay raises for credits” (column raises) paid retroactively, so teachers who had earned column raises since 2017 would now get them. The proposal also gives a $500 stipend to all teachers in the second year, 2018-19.

For the three years after that, there are step and column raises included in the deal. In 2020-21, all steps also receive $250. In 2021-22, all steps receive $500.

With union approval, it’s up to the school board to accept or reject the contract. If the board accepts it, the deal should be finalized. The board could call a special meeting to vote, or could wait until the next scheduled monthly meeting, which hasn’t been officially set. By law, it must occur by June 30 so the board can pass a final budget before the start of a new fiscal year.

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By Mark Guydish

[email protected]

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish