UCF board, teachers approve factfinders’ report

OK means 4-year contract runs through 2018-19 school year

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times


The Unionville-Chadds Ford School District Board of Education discusses the factfinders report during Tuesday’s special board meeting.

EAST MARLBOROUGH — The Unionville-Chadds Ford School District and its teachers both have accepted the recommendations of the state-appointed fact finder for a new four-year contract, following the Board of Education’s 8-1 vote Tuesday night.

The Unionville-Chadds Ford Education Association, the teachers’ union, approved the terms of the report on Sept. 3, just a few days after fact-finder Timothy J. Brown issued his recommendations on Aug. 31. The terms of the proposal were kept secret, under state law, until Tuesday night.

The agreement calls for an average of 2.79% in salary and benefit cost increases over the term of the deal, although some of that increase is tied to state-mandated increases in the pension fund contribution rate. That rate was 21.4% in 2014-15, and is projected currently to increase to 31.56% by the 2018-19 school year the final year of the pact.

The lone no vote on the agreement was Keith Knauss, who argued that the salary and benefit increases were unsustainable under the Act 1 limits — and he expressed concern that it might become necessary to cut staff and program by the end of the contract.

Other than Knauss, both sides — and both had called for a fact finding process, similar to a non-binding arbitration — expressed satisfaction that a deal, while not seen as perfect from either side, represents a fair compromise for all involved.

For their part, the teachers expressed happiness that they could get back to the business of educating the district’s students.

“We are delighted to have the Board vote to support the Fact Finder’s report,” said UCFEA President Scott Broomall, in a statement issued after Tuesday night’s vote. “It marks the end of nearly a year of formal negotiations and longer than that in preparation. The report is fair and reasonable and mindful of all stakeholders involved in the process. The UCFEA is excited to get back to educating our students, which is our greatest priority. It’s important that we have a voice in our workplace, that we can negotiate terms and conditions of our employment. We are thankful a settlement is reached and look to continue to build stronger relationships with our community and its parents. This assures we have the best possible conditions for our students and sustains Unionville-Chadds Ford School District status as a premier district in Pennsylvania.”

District officials, while noting it wasn’t always a smooth process, said the agreement represents the work of community members coming together — board members and teachers — to find a middle ground that best served the entire community.

“It was important for us as a board to go through this process, to share our views publicly, to be accountable for our opinions and decisions and to share real feelings about how we view this fact finders report and the process we’ve undertaken since January of this calendar year,” Board of Education President Victor Dupuis said. “It is a formal process, but at the end of the day it is members of the community sitting on one side of the table with other members of the community on the other side of the table and coming to a reasonable agreement that we can all live with. While it took some formality of a fact finders discussions and publication to arrive at a conclusion that is going to meet the majority of our needs on both sides. I am elated that that association has chosen to approve this and I’m equally elated that we have what appears to be a pretty strong consensus on this side. That’s people of this community working this out together the way it’s supposed to happen in local government and school districts.”

Going through Brown’s recommendations, from salary to health care to work rules, the fact finder in many cases split down the middle and proposed middle ground from both sides’ positions — particularly with the salary grid, where Brown proposed raises almost exactly between the two sides positions.

Brown nixed a “carve out” provision for spouses with insurance from their employer, but backed a district proposal to end the so called “91st day” — which previously had been a half day for students midyear with the second half intended for teachers to catch up on paperwork. With technology advances, Brown agreed that the time would be better served now for instruction and will become a full education day during the 2016-17 school year.

For the 20115-16 school year, salaries start at $48,520 for first-year teachers with a bachelors degree, running through to $103,491 for teachers with a Masters Degree plus 60 credits and 16 or more years of experience.

Three board members, Knauss, Jeff Hellrung and Michael Rock made presentations prior to the vote — with Knauss arguing that the net yearly increase, when counted with benefits amounted to 4.6% annually, a number later disputed by Rock in his presentation. Hellrung’s presentation suggested that the finding was a fair compromise.

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