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Tuscarora teachers approve contract

September 24, 2008|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

MERCERSBURG, Pa. -- It took nine months of bargaining and five days of picketing to get it, but teachers in the Tuscarora School District said "yes" Tuesday to a contract that they felt was "livable" for four more years.

Union spokeswoman Marcia Bender said the 180 unionized teachers voted after school Monday on the tentative agreement reached Sept. 7 between the Tuscarora School District and the bargaining team.

Bender said Tuesday that the contract is "a done deal" now that both the Tuscarora School Board and the required two-thirds of the teachers have accepted its terms.

Reaching the tentative agreement was a give-and-take for both parties, she said.

"The contract is an obvious compromise, but both parties felt the terms were livable for the next four years," she said. "Now, the teachers can focus on the education programs of Tuscarora and the board can focus on its facilities."

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On Sept. 2, instead of entering the classroom for the first day of school, teachers hit the picket line to show that they would not back down from their demands on salaries, health care contributions and pay for all teachers.

Bender said the teachers wanted an annual increase of 4.5 percent in the district salary pool for the next four years, lowered contribution toward health insurance premiums and fair salaries for three employees (two social workers and an athletic trainer) being paid less than 100 percent of their scheduled rate.

The parties compromised with a 4.4 percent increase for the 2008-2009 school year and 4.3 percent, 4.25 percent and 4.25 percent, respectively, for the remaining three years of the contract. Under the new contract, teachers will pay 8 percent toward the premium in 2008-09 and 8.75 percent, 9 percent, and 9.75 percent, respectively, for the next three years.

The two social workers will be paid 100 percent of their scheduled salary, but the union compromised by agreeing for the trainer to be paid only 65 percent of the scheduled rate.

The teachers also wanted pay for coaches and advisers who have to put in time for an extended athletic season or extracurricular activity. Bender said the board would not budge on this point, so the union dropped the issue because it was not worth holding up the contract.

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