Teachers reach 4-year contract
Teachers in the Northern Lehigh School District will receive a 3.5 percent salary increase in each of the next four years.
The school board, on a 7-2 vote Monday, approved the new four-year pact, which calls for an average increase of 2.4 percent, plus step increments.
In addition, the contract, which will run through Aug. 31, 2014, includes increased teacher contributions to their health care based on a percentage of the monthly premium the district pays.
Directors Mathias Green, Lori Geronikos, Gary Fedorcha, Gregory Williams, Donna Kulp, Raymond Follweiler and board President Edward Hartman were in favor. Directors Lauren Ganser and Donald Dengler were opposed.
Prior to the vote, Ganser prefaced the reason for her decision to vote against the contract.
"I'd like to commend the negotiations teams for coming to an agreement," Ganser said. "My reason (for voting against the contract) is purely for economic reasons, and not education reasons."
Hartman congratulated both sides for their ability to come to terms on a new contract.
"It was a great job by all the people involved," Hartman said.
Williams, who said the agreement was reached more than three months before the expiration of the current contract, read a joint statement prepared by both the school board and the Northern Lehigh Education Association.
"Both sides would like to thank each other for the harmonious negotiations, especially at a time when many other districts have spent countless dollars on legal fees dealing with expired contracts. It is important to note that this agreement was reached directly by members of the association and the school board. The entire Northern Lehigh community should be proud of the amount of teamwork that went into this agreement. We are all lucky to have a teaching staff that cares about its community and a board that supports its teachers," said Williams.
Also on Monday, Karen Nicholas, assistant to the superintendent, announced that the Pennsylvania PACT grants must be submitted by this week.
Nicholas said the amount of Accountability Block Grant funding the district will receive will stay the same. The ABG funds the district's preschool program, three full-day kindergarten teaching positions, and a technology teacher at the elementary level.
However, Nicholas noted the amount of Basic Education Funding the district will receive is $154,000 less than last year's amount, while the amount of Educational Assistance Program funding the district will receive is set to decrease by $2,000.
Superintendent Michael Michaels expressed his thoughts on the reduced levels of funding the district will receive.
"It just goes to echo the budget is so in flux," Michaels said. "We have to be very cautious."
Michaels added that the matter is one the district deals with on an annual basis.
"This is an ongoing issue every year," he said. "It's very, very difficult."
Michaels said he has received phone calls from people who have asked whether the district plans to get rid of any programs.
"At this point in time, the answer is no," Michaels said. "But, I can't answer what's going to happen (in the future)."
In other business, Michaels noted the week of May 2-8 was National Teacher Appreciation Week.
Michaels said it's been a "pleasure" to work with everyone in the district.
"We have great kids, teachers, and administrators," Michaels said. "We are the best kept secret in Eastern Pennsylvania education."