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Tuscarora board approves teacher contract

January 24, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - The two sides of teacher contract negotiations in the Tuscarora (Pa.) School District have disagreed on several issues during the past two years.

The latest is whether the teachers now have a contract.

The school board on Monday unanimously approved a contract that was ratified by Tuscarora Teachers Association on Thursday.

The final step will be signing the documents after one last thorough review of the wording, said Lee Ann Witter-Keefer, president of the teachers association.

However, Thomas Stapleford, the district superintendent, said he is nearly certain the actions by the teachers association and board mean the contract is in place and binding.

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"I would venture to say the contract is legally enforceable," he said.

Tuscarora School District serves students in the Borough of Mercersburg and several surrounding townships.

The teachers' last contract expired June 30, 2004. Negotiations hinged on salaries and contributions to health insurance premiums, according to previous comments by both sides.

The approved contract is retroactive. It extends from July 1, 2004, to June 30, 2008.

"Hopefully we can move forward ... for the benefit of the students. Mistrust needs to be eliminated," said Jane Rice, school board president.

Under the approved contract, salary increases will be paid to teachers at 1.6 percent for 2004-05 for those who remained employed into this school year. Subsequent increases include 4.5 percent retroactive to July 1, 2005, and 4.25 percent for 2006-07 and 4.5 percent for 2007-08, according to documents made available by the school board.

Those documents say the average teacher salary in 2005-06 is $52,360.

Rice said the starting salary for a teacher is $35,023 without benefits.

The board documents also say teachers will begin to make contributions to their health insurance premiums. Those contributions over the next three school years range from 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent.

The teachers' Blue Cross health insurance premiums for 2005 were about $2 million, Stephen Russell, the board's solicitor, previously said.

The teachers association represented between 170 and 185 teachers in the contract negotiations, Witter-Keefer said earlier this month.

She said that is almost the entire teaching staff.

The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board had appointed a fact-finder whose report was expected by the end of the month, said Russell.

Contract negotiations are starting in other Franklin County, Pa., districts including Waynesboro Area and Chambersburg Area, according to school officials.

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