News release from Central Fulton School District Superintendent Dwayne Northcraft

March 22, 2011

Editor’s note: Here is the full text of a news release issued by Central Fulton School District Superintendent Dwayne Northcraft. Central Fulton serves the McConnellsburg, Pa., area of Fulton County.

The Central Fulton School District has not been isolated from the economic challenges that face our local and national funding sources. As expenses increase and revenues decrease, the need for resourceful management of money is imperative.

On July 1st, the administration took a close look at the staffing needed to provide a quality education for our students. A review of our enrollment shows that Central Fulton had approximately 1,200 students enrolled in the early 1990s, around 1,050 through the late 1990s until 2007 and a decline to 975 since 2008.

The student population decreased by roughly 235 students, but our staffing numbers actually increased. In 1993-94, 81 teachers were instructing 1,210 students while 83 teachers were instructing 975 students in 2010-11. It is quite clear that a reduction in staff can be accomplished without creating unrealistic class sizes.

With negotiations starting in January for the 2011-12 school year, the school board and administration planned extensively by studying past and projected data, preventing the acceptance of an unaffordable contract while concurrently maintaining quality programs.

In resistance to furloughing and with the foresight that steps must be taken now to avoid an economic catastrophe within the next few years, the retirement incentive concept was embraced with the intent of making retirement affordable to those teachers who have the option of retirement. The retirement incentive is $40,000, and 12 teachers have signed retirement agreements.

One must understand that the cost of furloughing young teachers is $35,000 due to associated unemployment costs, without considering potential litigation costs. This incentive will be a one-time outlay of $480,000 because nine of the 12 retiring teachers will not be replaced, resulting in a savings of $240,000 the first year and $720,000 annually thereafter. The total years of experience that will be lost is impossible to quantify, and we are grateful for the dedicated years of service that these 12 professionals have provided.

The Central Fulton School Board and The Central Fulton Education Association are proud of their relationship built on a foundation of open communication, respect, and trust with the shared primary objective of providing a quality education to all students.

The board members met with the teachers’ negotiating team and explained the loss of revenue that schools are experiencing while driving home their concerns for the economic hardships that people are facing. In return, the teachers were willing to change their health care plans and settle for lower increases than many districts are offering instead of choosing not to negotiate and work using their current contract language. The fact that the board members sincerely represented the taxpayers when urging the teachers to consider financial constraints and the fact that teachers were sensitive to the needs of the district yielded a fair and affordable contract.

The teachers will receive an average salary increase of 1.3 percent year one, 1.3 percent year two and 2 percent year three, a health care option of a higher deductible PPO with the employee paying 7.5 percent or a HSA plan with no cost sharing, and one additional personal day in their new contract. The changes in health care coverage result in significant savings compared to the previous contract.

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