BY STACI WILSON
While teaching contract negotiations in Blue Ridge and Montrose Area captured the public’s attention in recent months, another local school district was also working out an agreement.
The Susquehanna Community School District and the Susquehanna Community Education Association (SCEA) reached a contract agreement last week. The prior contract term ended June 30, 2015, and the union was working under the provisions of the expired contract for the past year.
The board approved a five-year contract, effective July 1, 2015 through June 20, 2020, at its Wednesday, June 15 meeting.
SCEA President Lawrence Tompkins issued a statement about the contract agreement: “SCEA is pleased with the board’s decision to approve the new collective bargaining agreement. This certainly was not an easy process over the last year, but one that we feel has allowed both parties to reach an agreement that keeps the district in great financial shape through 2020 and beyond. Over the last 10 years, the district has built a solid working fund balance that they can use for capital projects and other surprises, like state budget issues. With some of the changes adopted in this new collective bargaining agreement, it should continue to allow (SCSD) that flexibility as well.”
The majority of contract terms remain unchanged, according to Superintendent Bronson Stone, but significant change were made to both salaries and benefits.
The contract calls for annual three percent salary increases, with teachers also receiving a retroactive three percent increase for the 2015-16 school year.
Credit column movement was restricted to set the maximum movement to two columns over the remaining four years of the contract.
Credit column movement results in additional raises for graduate credits earned beyond a bachelor and master degrees, Stone explained.
Susquehanna Community employees covered under the contract will now be required to meet health care deducibles and contribute to health care costs through a premium share.
Prior to this contract agreement, the district paid 100 percent of the health care insurance costs.
The deductible was set at $250 for a single plan; and $500 for a plan covering dependents.
The premium share breaks down costs over the life of the contract: For the 2016-17, and 2017-18 school years, the contract calls for a premium share of $250 for a single health plan and $600 for a plan with dependents.
During the final two years of the contract, the premium shares will increase to $500 and $1,200, respectively.
The Blue Ridge School District and its teachers’ association reached a contract deal earlier this month. The Blue Ridge Education Association issued a strike notice in late February, then moved the March 29 strike date and, as negotiations progressed, rescinded the strike prior to settling the contract.
In the Montrose Area School District, teachers hit the pickett lines on March 29, striking for 10 days before they were required by the Pennsylvania Dept. of Education to return to the classroom.
No contract agreement has been reached in the Montrose Area district, and the MEA has requested arbitration.