Members of the Pottsgrove Education Association, the Pottsgrove School District teachers’ union, dressed in blue and awaited the start of Tuesday night’s school board meeting
POTTSTOWN PA – What seems to have become a Pottsgrove School District strategy of public bargaining over new terms for the now-expired contract with its teachers’ union took a heightened twist Wednesday night (Oct. 14, 2015). The administration distributed an e-mail that contained a summary of the union’s last negotiating proposals, and compared them side-by-side to its own.
Union president and high school business teacher Megan DeLena reacted within 90 minutes, accusing the district of “miscalculating” the Pottsgrove Education Association proposals “and exaggerating the expense.” What she perceived as “a clear effort” to embarrass the union by releasing its latest offer to the community would fail, DeLena added, because the teachers’ proposal “was fair, honest and properly calculated.”
“We are not embarrassed!,” she proclaimed.
The e-mail, sent “in the spirit of transparency” and signed by district Superintendent Shellie Feola and board President Justin Valentine, reached the in-boxes of hundreds of parents and other recipients at about 9 p.m. Accompanying it was a link to a grid-like document that purported to show differences in the district and union offers on proposed salary increases, severance pay and insurance plan changes.
- Editor’s Note: Wednesday’s original grid document was replaced by the district Thursday (Oct. 15) at 1:30 p.m. with an enhanced chart; it appears below, and also can be found here on the district website. An image of the Wednesday grid is available from The Post media library, here.
The e-mail represented the second effort by the district in as many days to directly appeal to students’ families and taxpayers in advance of the next bargaining session, scheduled for Monday (Oct. 19). The first was a public disclosure of only the district’s own contract offer, in the form of a verbal outline, presented Tuesday during the board’s meeting at Lower Pottsgrove Elementary School.
“The Board believes the public needs to be aware of the salary and benefits demands of the PGEA as well as the good faith proposal of the Board, and the impact these demands may have on the financial stability of the district,” the e-mail stated.
According to the grid, the union currently seeks an average wage increase in a four-year contract of 3.62 percent annually, as opposed to the district’s currently proposed average of 2.85 percent. The difference, according to district calculations, would cost Pottsgrove $590,779 more than its current offer. There also appears to be a significant difference between the proposals for increases in severance payouts for accumulated sick days, although a cost difference between those proposals is not shown.
Differences appear, too, in proposals concerning health insurance plans offered, and proposed changes in the cost of their monthly premiums and benefit packages.
“The district is in much better financial shape today than (it was) in 2012 and we have been told that the district has the financial capability to afford our proposal. But they don’t want to admit that to the public,” DeLena countered. She pointedly noted the union “acted in good faith in our last contract when the district needed financial help and (teachers) took freezes in 3 out of 5 years.”
“It is the intent of the Board of School Directors to identify a settlement that recognizes the hard work of our teachers but is also fiscally responsible to the taxpayers of the district, Feola and Valentine said in their e-mail.
On the other hand, DeLena replied, “The PGEA is asking the public to support the teachers who support the children of this district, day in and day out. School board members serve for a few years,” the union president reminded the public, adding “teachers serve for over 30.”
In Tuesday’s board meeting comments, the most vocal members of the public pledged parental support for the teachers.
The district e-mail closed on what sounded like an ominous note: “We appreciate everyone’s efforts to keep attention focused on the students of Pottsgrove and hope to minimize any impact on our classrooms,” it claimed.
Related (to the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ Oct. 13 meeting):