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Teachers feel 'betrayed' by new contract

February 26, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The Waynesboro Area School Board Tuesday approved a new four-year employment contract that teachers, who agreed to the pact Friday, said was "disappointing."

The agreement ended contract negotiations that began in December 2001 and gave the 290-member Waynesboro Area Education Association raises from 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent over the next four years.

According to education association figures, the raise over the four years of the contract breaks down as follows:

n A starting teacher with a bachelor's degree will earn $32,383 the first year, $33,700 the second year, $35,000 the third year and $37,000 the fourth year.

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n A teacher with a master's degree and 14 years of experience in the district will receive $51,232 in the first year of the new contract, $52,591 in the second year, $54,006 in the third year and $55,714 in the fourth year.

It is retroactive to July 1, 2002.

Teachers have been working without a contract since the old one expired June 30, 2002.

Two board members, Leland Lemley and Nelson Rock, voted against the contract without comment Tuesday night.

Michael Engle, a Waynesboro Area High School science teacher and WAEA president, said the teachers approved the new agreement "by a very slim margin."

"It's very disappointing," said Eric Yeckley, an eighth-grade teacher at Waynesboro Area Middle School and a member of the negotiating team. He said the teachers accepted the new contract with only a 4 percent majority.

He said the teachers will continue working in their classrooms in spite of their disappointment.

"It won't affect what we do. We're professionals," he said.

The board voted on the contract following a five-minute executive session before a scheduled budget workshop. Members were not available for comment after the vote.

"We are unhappy with a few of the major issues, but in the end, by a slight majority the membership approved the contract because the membership felt it had limited options," the negotiating team said in a prepared release Tuesday.

"The board's entrenched, regressive stance, fact-finding and other alternatives would have lengthened the process and probably not have achieved significant improvements," the release said.

The teachers said the new wage package puts Waynesboro near the bottom of salaries among Franklin County's five other school districts.

"Only Fannett-Metal is below us," Engle said.

"And now we have what is arguably the worst benefits package among the other districts," the release said.

Engle said the contract adds two working days to the teachers' school year for a total of 189 days and makes Waynesboro teachers pay deductibles on medical bills for the first time - $250 for single members and $500 for families.

The contract also boosts co-payments on medical expenses up to $25 in the fourth year.

Engle said the salary package means teachers will leave the system for better-paying jobs in other districts and will make hiring the best qualified applicants more difficult.

"One teacher left the district to make $10,000 more in Greencastle (Pa.) last year," he said.

According to Engle, a starting teacher in Greencastle makes $36,865 compared to $32,383 for a Waynesboro teacher under the new contract.

"The Board stated that they care about their employees, but the resulting raise will not cover the increase in health care for some of our senior teachers and will most certainly hurt retired employees," the teachers' release said. "We feel betrayed."

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