The Tunkhannock Area School Board signed off on a collective bargaining agreement with its teachers Thursday night and is giving its teachers a week to respond.
Board member William Prebola said the proposal offers pay increases of 2.6 percent for the present school year, 2.6 percent for 2018-19, 2.8 percent for 2019-20, and 3 percent for 2020-21.
It also reflects a change in health plan choices to Geisinger HMO HRA (Health Reimbursement Arrangement) or Highmark HMO HRA but for the 2018-19 school year would reflect no change in cost share which is one percent of salary or 4 percent of premium whichever is lower.
An HRA, however, typically has a higher deductible than a standard HMO which teachers presently have available to them.
In 2019-20, the cost share would be 4 percent, and in 2020-21 the cost share would be 4 percent with a cap of 12 percent increase over the previous year.
The offer is contingent on ratification by the Tunkhannock Area Education Association by 8 p.m., May 17, to allow movement of employees from current healthcare to new plans by July 1.
Prebola said he was optimistic the teachers would endorse the proposal based on recent give-and-take over the details.
The teachers have been without a contract since last summer.
The TAEA in January had set a strike date of April 23 for teachers to walk off the job, but the strike date was pulled off the table in early April as negotiations ramped up, Prebola said.
The school district is facing other substantial changes dealing with closure of three elementary schools after the present school year and consolidation to the Tunkhannock campus, with restructuring of grades across four buildings in town.
“Our goal has been to get this contract in place so we can focus on consolidation matters,” Prebola said.
Asked by Superintendent Heather Mcpherson what would happen if the teachers rejected the offer, Prebola said it would be off the table.
“A lot of parties have put a great deal of time in this,” he said. “I am hoping they find this agreement acceptable.”
Jim Maria, a representative of the Pennsylvania State Education Association who has been in on TAEA discussions, on Friday said that there had been a lot of side conversations that went into what the school board arrived at.
“And that is not all bad, but we were of the mind that the process wasn’t finished yet,” he said. “We’ll let the teachers decide when they vote.”
On Thursday night Superintendent McPherson said the people doing work in the administration building have encountered a problem and in the interest of transparencey were acknowledging that there were two or three places where they believe asbestos may have been discovered.
Chief Operating Officer Shane Powers said the matter had been reported to DEP and air quality readings were being taken.
McPherson said the public would be kept apprised of findings.Under new business the board approved a preliminary budget which showed no change in millage from the present 75 mills.
Board member Bill Swilley cautioned that it was only a preliminary budget and anything could happen before the final budget is approved in late June as long as the district stays within a Pennsylvania Department of Education index of 3.1 percent.
Board member John Burke also cautioned that fund balances of the past have been long depleted and it would be useful to build that back up.
The board approved administrative assistant Carolyn Lawson as board secretary and John Burke as board treasurer.
Holly Arnold volunteered herself and Shana Gregory to serve as voting delegates to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association meeting.
A resolution to approve Jason Keown for overnight field trips involving SkillsUSA and FBLA was accepted as was a resolution to accept 30 yoga mats from Electric City Yoga to be used with the seventh grade STEM Academy.
There was no unfinished business in the agenda.
The board accepted most of the superintendent’s report which included a resolution to approve the retirement of middle school teacher Diane Harvey, and Mill City cafeteria worker Mary Jean Shotwell; as well as the appointments of several coaching positions (Karen Passarelli-head girls volleyball; Jill Weaver- head field hockey; Spencer Lunger- head boys basketball; Tim Mislevy- head boys swimming; Victoria King- head girls swimming; Kim Henning- diving coach; Bob Hegedty, ead werstling and Britanny Wood- basketball cheerleading).
However the appointment of a head girls soccer coach was tabled.
The board also accepted overnight conference attendances of Deanna Semyon, Kyle Snover, and Mary Gene Eagen.
Persons in the audience were also treated to a presentation on the high school robotics team.