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Teachers Association claims they endorsed wage freeze proposal

Published June 08. 2011 05:01PM

The Palmerton Area Education Association has, in fact, endorsed a wage freeze proposal, according to the president of the organization.

Brad Landis, president of the PAEA, sent the TIMES NEWS a prepared statement on Tuesday, several days after an article appeared that said the group had refused the offer on several occasions.

At a meeting of the school board on June 1, board President Barry Scherer read a prepared statement that said the district on May 24 again requested that the PAEA accept a pay freeze.

"With this request was the promise that those employees who have already been approved as Training and Special Training Advisors would be exempt from the freeze and could continue to receive their annual stipend as promised so that their retirement would not be negatively affected by such a freeze," Scherer said. "In addition, the district would be able to save approximately four or so teaching positions with the savings achieved by the freeze."

Instead, Scherer said the PAEA "has flatly refused this offer, and continues to request an extension on their contract, which expires at the end of the 2011-12 school year."

But, Landis said that is not the case.

In their prepared statement, the Association said:

"The Palmerton Area School District (PASD) is pointing the finger in the wrong direction! The Palmerton Area Education Association (PAEA) is not responsible for the mismanagement of taxpayer funds. The district needs to hold themselves accountable for their lack of financial responsibility and they need to stop making PAEA their scapegoat.

In response to the article regarding the rejected pay freeze by the teachers of the Palmerton Area School District, it is important to note a few of the factual details the article failed to mention. The PASD is attempting to skew the public perception about the teachers' willingness to cooperate in order to solve the current financial situation.

Did you know that on April 26, the teacher's overwhelmingly endorsed a proposal that would have saved the district over $300,000 in the 2011-2012 school year? However, the district rejected this offer as Mr. Scherer stated at one of the board meetings that, "this would hamstring the district." The teachers are still baffled at how saving the district $300,000 is going to "hamstring" the district.

Did you know that the board's interpretation of an "unconditional" pay freeze differs between teachers and administrators? The district is unwilling to honor the remaining year of the teachers' contract unlike the remaining years of the administrators' contract. If the district would have accepted our remaining year it would have provided the district with additional funds and it would have given them more breathing room, not less. It also would have pushed back negotiations another year thus allowing the District to save much needed money next year on astronomical legal fees. Five years ago, the attorney was charging the Palmerton taxpayers more than $175 an hour! Can you imagine what that number has grown to today?

Did you know the meeting Mr. Scherer referred to which occurred on May 24th was NOT a negotiating session? Rather, the meeting was actually called by the Association to inform the district of their inaccuracies of some teacher furloughs.

Did you know that the District never guaranteed to save any teaching jobs with a pay freeze? When asked by the negotiating team at the March 22 meeting about saving teaching positions, the board said, "We make no promises." So, imagine our disbelief when we read this statement in the newspaper!

It is time to set the record straight. It is imperative that the public understand some of the irresponsible decisions and wasteful spending during these difficult financial times.

Superintendent Carol Boyce agreed to freeze her pay after receiving a pay raise in January of this year.

The board hired a new district facilities manager at $15,000 more than the previous manager.

The district has added a director of Human Resources and a full-time secretary that total over $100,000 in salaries and benefits.

The board hired a financial consultant even though they already employ a full-time business administrator.

Since 2008, when the fund balance was over $3 million, the district has decreased the number of teachers and increased the number of administrators. Which impacts students' achievement more…the loss of teachers or more administrators?

The district approved over $7,500 to be spent on updating computer software for a course that will not be taught next year and the software cannot be returned. They also purchased new books in the past 24 months in the tens of thousands of dollars for courses that will no longer be offered due to the cuts.

High school students and teachers do not know what courses will be offered next year and what class sizes students face when returning in August. Technology course offerings are being slashed by 40 percent.

At the K-6 level, class sizes are set to increase to what we feel are unacceptable numbers and to the detriment of our educational program.

According to recent comments, the district will be rolling over more than $460,000 of unspent monies into next year's budget. On top of that, the district is expecting to receive an additional $900,000 in reimbursement from the state for the renovation of Parkside Education Center. Both will improve next year's budget situation. The doom and gloom predicted for next year just isn't adding up.

Mr. Scherer publicly stated that with our contract they "will be faced with crippling financial circumstances." However, the Association believes that the frivolous spending as mentioned above is the real culprit to the district's financial distress…not the teaching staff! With all of this said, the Association is stilling waiting for the school board to publicly vote on our original proposal. Let it be clear that the Association has endorsed a wage freeze proposal."

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