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SV Teacher Contract Talks Stalled Over Graduate Course Pay, Retirement Incentive

The Saucon Valley School Board recently gave its views on a fact-finding report and the heard the views of residents, and for the first time the teachers union spoke publicly about its views.

By Jack Tobias

The Saucon Valley School Board gave its views on a fact-finding report and the heard the views of residents, and for the first time the teachers union spoke publicly about its views.

Those were highlights from Thursday's special public board meeting, based on a story posted on the Express-Times website.

Patch, meanwhile, has previously reported that while the school board voted 7-2 to accept the fact-finder's report, the teachers union voted twice to reject it.

The Express-Times story said the two sides are close to agreement on salary and benefits, and that the board said talks are stalled over payments for graduate course work and phasing out a retirement incentive.

The union did not comment during Thursday's meeting but spoke afterward.

Saucon Valley Education Association president Theresa Andreucci told the Express-Times, "I'm really concerned about the atmosphere and environment. We have teachers that are dedicated professionals that work day in and day out and somehow it seems it goes unappreciated."

Neither Andreucci not the union's chief negotiator, Jim Colbert, responded to Patch emails Friday requesting further comment.

A website, OurSaucon.com, has been established "to help educate the community about the current state of negotiations between the Saucon Valley Education Association and the Saucon Valley School Board" and as "a place to get the educators’ perspective on the contract negotiations," according to its About page.

Saucon Valley teachers have been working without a contract since June 30, 2012, and negotiations have been ongoing for nearly two years.

Patch also previously reported that the union approached the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board to provide a fact-finder.

The school district has posted the report of fact-finder Rochelle K. Kaplan, an attorney, on its website. It also has posted a school board report on the fact-finder's report.

The following are some of the key issues and recommendations being discussed, gleaned from both the fact-finder and school board reports:

SALARY

--Freeze in first year of four-year contract (the four-year contract would be retroactive, thus covering the 2012-2013 as its first year).

--2.5 percent increase in second year, plus a $1,500 bonus for most teachers.

--No salary increase in third year; everyone gets $1,500 bonus.

--Effective 14th pay period of fourth year, each cell on the salary schedule would increase $950, with a new salary schedule reflecting the $950 addition.

TUITION REIMBURSEMENT

--For courses relating to teaching certificates and master's degrees, reduce reimbursement rate from 125 percent to 100 percent of East Stroudsburg University rate, as a way to limit the district's cost.

--For a second master's degree or a doctorate, reimbursement would be limited to $2,000 a year per employee.

RETIREMENT INCENTIVES

--The fact-finder commented: "It is no secret that PSERS (Public School Employees' Retirement System costs) probably hangs like a dark cloud over every school district."

--The school board said of retirement incentives: "This singular issue has most widely separated the two sides in the 16 months of negotiations."

--Currently, teachers with 20-plus years of service get 45 percent of their last annual salary.

--The fact-finder recommended a cash bonus of $1,750 for each year of service. Also, retirement bonuses would disappear on June 30, 2016—the end of the four-year contract.

HEALTH CARE

--Cost to teachers would rise over the life of the contract. For instance, a deductible for some teachers would go from $250 in the first year to $500 in the fourth year. Premium payments would go from a low of $45 a month in the first year to $60 a month in the fourth year.
Bryan Eichfeld December 11, 2013 at 09:14 AM
Overall the summary of the Fact Finder report is accurate except for the Second Year Salary, teachers will be allowed to move up to 1 step and 1 column half way through the year and those who are above the 15 year mark and cannot move step or column will get a $1,500 bonus. So it is an either/or situation. Not both.
Bryan Eichfeld December 11, 2013 at 09:22 AM
Also, the teacher retirement incentive is actually an incentive when it has an ending. The $1750.00 per year is more for most teachers that under the old contract. This is part of the Fact Finding that I objected to, but with the sunset of it, it becomes somewhat acceptable. Remember, all of the Teachers and full time staff at the School District have a platinum Plated retirement program that pays 75% salary for a teacher retiring with 30 years (if they were hired before 2009). If they stay for 40 years they get 100% pay and we have a Secretary that has 50+ years and she will get 125% pay in retirement!
SV Parent December 11, 2013 at 02:30 PM
I think the teachers miscalculated on graduate tuition benefit. They should have reigned themselves in after being warned 4 years ago; they knew this was under scrutiny. The online education graduate schools have not helped the teaching profession but rather undermined it; short term gains but long term losses.
Charlotte December 11, 2013 at 03:57 PM
Too bad the teachers don't have to live in the real world like the rest of us. What they pay for health care is a joke compared to what employees shell out each month from their paychecks, not to mention a retirement at 75 to 100% of their last year's salary. Cut me a break...cry babies!!!!
optimist December 12, 2013 at 07:43 AM
Thanks Mr. Eichfeld. How are things going with your involvement in the Lehigh Valley Tea party these days?
Bryan Eichfeld December 14, 2013 at 12:41 AM
I am still actively involved, we have a meeting the First Friday of every month at the Chrin Community Center. Please come on out and see what we believe in. We love this nation and are afraid that those in government who continuously spend more than we take in are destroying it for all of us. I pray that the American people will wake up to this before it is too late. If that makes me an extremist, then I am very guilty.

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