|Photos by Evan Brandt|
Members of the Pottsgrove Education Association showed up in force, and with matching t-shirts, at Tuesday nights Pottsgrove School Board meeting at Lower Pottsgrove Elementary School.
The Pottsgrove School Board, without comment, approved nearly $10,000 in pay increases for its three top administrators at Tuesday night's board meeting.
But there was plenty of conversation -- on both sides of the table -- regarding the ongoing negotiations between the district and the teachers.
According to reporting from The Mercury last year, Superintendent Shellie Feola's salary increased by $1,962; from $178,412 to $180,379 -- a 1.1 percent increase, the smallest percentage hike of the three the board Ok'd.
Assistant Superintendent William Shirk, earned a $3,870 in his first full year with Pottsgrove, a 2.5 percent hike from $154,788 to $158,658.
Longtime Business Manager David Nester will enjoy a raise of nearly $4,000 ($3,928 to be exact), also 2.5 percent. It raises his salary from $157,123 to $161,051.
That 2.5 percent turns out to be relative in another matter too, the teachers' contract.
In a maneuver I have never EVER seen in nearly 30 years of local journalism, the board gave permission for Nester to reveal some details of the district's offer to the teachers union.
They included "step movement in three out of the four years" of the district's contract proposal, "with dollars at the top of scale all four years."
Nester also said the raises being proposed by the district worked out to an increase of 2.85 percent each year for the average teacher.
Other changes were being proposed to avoid the Obamacare tax on "Cadillac" health plans, which will be imposed in 2018.
"We feel like the offer is fair in today's economy," Nester said.
Board member Rick Rabinowitz further added that his personal experience with the more expensive and less expansive health plan showed that the less extensive plan actually saves money.
His wife is a teacher in the Spring-Ford Area School District and Rabinowitz said "we did the math" and concluded that the lower premium, the lower urgent care co-pay and other co-pays resulted in savings that are "pretty substantial" in the long term and offset higher costs that might be incurred for a major illness of health cost.
Comments in support of the teachers by Darlene Robinsons received
ovation from the Pottsgrove teachers union members
present at Tuesday night's meeting.
He added that as a professional recruiter, the health care plans and premiums enjoyed by the district are "not even close" to those in the private sector, where employee contributions are typically much higher.
Two parents -- Darlene Robinson and Danielle Walsh -- both made passionate pleas to the board on behalf of the teachers, re-inforcing the points made by union president Megan DeLena that in three of the last five years, more than 250 teachers in the district have received no pay increases as a way to help Pottsgrove get through a difficult economy.
Here is video of DeLena's complete commentary to the board:
In another unusual move, Nester was drafted to give an update on the budget, months before he usually undertakes the task. He reported that the state index for Pottsgrove would allow tax increases of as much as 3.1 percent without voter approval.
Here are the Tweets from a very interesting meeting that actually only last a little more than an hour: