Strong presence of BR teachers as contract talks continue

There has been a strong presence of Blue Ridge Education Association (BREA) members at recent school board meetings. The district’s teachers have been working without a contract since it expired at the end of June.

At the Monday, Nov. 4, Blue Ridge School Board meeting, over 40 of the union members were in the audience wearing black BREA t-shirts.

BREA President Trish Gilboy said the group entered into early bird contract negotiations in November 2018.

She also said the union finds some of the contract negotiation updates published on the district website were “hurtful” and “misleading at times.”

The most recent update on the website is dated Nov. 3 and primarily deals with healthcare and a presentation from the district’s healthcare consultant at an Oct. 3 meeting.

In the letter addressed to Blue Ridge families and constituents, board president Chris Lewis wrote that the district had seen healthcare claims increase by 46 percent since last year and “our large claims and stop loss gap insurance claims have increased by 58% during that same time frame.”

The letter notes that the proposed healthcare plan recommendation from the consultant were higher than average due to the district being locked into rate until the collective bargaining agreement expires in five years.

Gilboy said BREA would like to work with the board to reach a contract resolution. “Teachers are still working and everybody is doing their job or more,” she said.

After recognizing several students, and routine votes to approve minutes and pay bills, the board quickly dispensed of their agenda in a consent vote on the agenda items.

Items approved by the board included:

*two non-resident, tuition free students;

*the hiring of Megan Conroy as a non-instructional substitute;

*hiring of Dennis Gow as a 2nd shift, full-time custodian and Brandon Gelatt as a permanent part-time custodian;

*resignations were accepted, with regret, from Michael Paulo, Austin Shafer, and Stacy Merrell; as well as the resignation for purpose of retirement fro Jacqueline Robinson;

*contract with Music Theatre International for royalties and licensing of Fiddler on the Roof for a high school spring performance;

*resolution to not increase the rate of any tax for the 2020-21 school year by more than the index established by the Dept. of Education of 3.6 percent;

*fund balance transfers;

*memorandum of understanding with Susquehanna County District Attorney’s office to provide School Resource Officer services, July 1, 2018-June 30, 2023;

*board policies: membership, admission of students, attendance, withdrawal from school, and food services;

*30-day review of policies: health examinations/screenings, professional development, facility and workplace safety, building security, relations with law enforcement agencies, school security personnel,

*purchased under the PCCD grant for security planning and the purchase of security related technology based upon safety needs identified.

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