District, teachers reach contract agreement
The Deer Lakes Board of School Directors approved a new five-year contract with the Deer Lakes Educators Association (DLEA), the professional organization for the school district’s 141 certified teachers, nurses and guidance counselors, at its monthly voting meeting. The new pact is retroactive to July 1, 2017 and will run through June 30, 2022.
The agreement was passed on a 5-3 vote. Board members Jodi Banyas-Galecki, Gary Torick and Phillip Ziendarski voted against the measure. Leanna M. Shurina did not attend the meeting.
School board president William A. Lupone Jr. expressed a special thanks to his fellow school board members, especially former president Clara Salvi, whom Lupone said worked tirelessly on the contract before retiring from the school board in December. Lupone also acknowledged the work of district business manager, Lori Byron, and Raymond F. Sekula, the district’s solicitor and lead negotiator.
“A lot of people worked very hard to come up with an agreement that was fair to the teachers and the community,” said Lupone.
Lupone also acknowledged the DLEA for their collaborative work in reaching the new contract, stating, “We are very happy that the contract has been agreed upon by all parties,” he said. “We now look forward to moving on to the important work of educating our children.”
Under the terms of the new agreement, the starting salary for a teacher with just a bachelor’s degree is $45,436. A teacher at the top of the scale this year, having earned only a bachelor’s degree, is $94,108. A teacher who starts with a master’s degree or more will earn $46,142 with the top of that scale equaling $96,068.
By the final year of the agreement, a new teacher with only a bachelor’s degree will start at $47,303. Teachers at the top of that scale will earn $97,040. Teachers who start with a master’s degree or more will earn $48,009 by 2022, with that scale topping out at $99,000.
The new agreement provides that teachers will receive on average, a 4.07 percent salary increase for each year of the term of the contract, which includes both step and on scale increases. In addition, starting next year, the teaching day will be lengthened from seven hours and fifteen minutes to seven hours and forty-five minutes per day with a few exceptions. Deer Lakes will continue to offer its students 183 instructional days and this year the teachers’ yearly work schedule remain at 192 days. Next year, that number will decrease by two days and the teachers will be required to work 188 days per year in the final three years of the contract.
Rising health care costs were again a factor in the negotiation with the teacher’s association agreeing to incremental increases in their payments from eight percent in year one of the contract up to 10 percent by the final year of the deal.
DLEA President Kevin Cochran emphasized the benefits and importance of collaboration in reaching this settlement. “We are pleased to reach what we feel is a reasonable, fair, and equitable contract for the school district, our members, and the community,” said Cochran. “We look forward to working with the administration to continue to build on the many good things we’re already doing by incorporating new technology and training to improve student achievement.”
Teachers will still have the opportunity to voluntarily contribute one of their unused sick days to the district’s sick bank to help cover for one of their colleagues should they be forced to miss an extended period of time due to illness. The district, which is currently contributing 60 days to the sick bank, will reduce that number in half by the end of the agreement.
Earlier, the DLEA’s membership overwhelmingly ratified the agreement.