Pattye Benson

Community Matters

TE School District and Teachers Sign 3-Year Contract

Based on the agenda for last night’s TE School District Special Meeting, the purpose of the meeting was a Priority Discussion on the fact-finding timeline of the teachers’ contract with summary of the report. It was stated that the Board was unable to publish details contained in the report prior to the Board discussion.

However, we learned upon arrival at the meeting, that the school board and the teachers union had reached a tentative 3-year contract. (The teachers contract expired June 30, 2017.) An overview of the contract negotiation process was presented by the District’s labor attorney Jeffrey Sultank of Fox Rothschild. Specifics of the contract presented by District administrators Art McDonnell, Dr. Gusick and Jeanne Pocalyko.

The school board provided few updates to the public during the contract negotiation process which began in January. In past contract negotiations, the public received regular updates were provided, including the members of the committee. The lack of information (particularly after the teachers contract expired on June 30) added to an already stressful situation with the teachers mounting their own PR campaign the last couple of months.

Below are the five slides that accompanied the fact-finding/teacher contract presentation. Although the fact-finding report and the teachers’ contract are not yet on the District website, the update should happen shortly. Following the slides, Ray Clarke provides a few specifics from the contract.

The school board unanimously approved the new 3-year contract.


From Ray Clarke:

The Administration presented a lot of numbers showing the expected impact of most of the components of the agreement, but there was no integrated summary of how all added up to the stated 1.7% per year increase to the total expense budget.

– Somehow this increase is equal to 47% of the revenue expected from increases in the Act1 Index of about 2.5% per year. (Despite a question, I’m still not sure how these numbers reconcile – part of the problem of not having an integrated summary).

– Salary increases aggregate to 10% over the three years, a cost offset to some extent by increases in the employee share of the premium for one of the health plans from 13% to 16% next year and by the implementation of a 6.5% share of the prescription plan premium, also next year. The salary increases come from matrix increases of 0.5% to 1% and from step movement, plus raising the caps on tuition reimbursement and column movement. The top step – always key with 40% of the staff there and earning ~$100,000/year – gets a $1,000 bonus this year, a ~2.5% increase next year and a 1% increase the year after.

– The cost calculations assume the current teacher population moves along the matrix and stays at the top level, no retirements.

– The impact of the extra PSERS and other salary-driven costs was not included

The Union and Board both seemed content with what appears on the surface to be a balanced agreement. It will be important for the Board to remember that the District does not have to raise taxes equal to this or other cost increases. Tonight Tredyffrin Township reported that its assessed base has increased 1.1% in 2017 YTD.

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  1. Interesting last sentence in Ray Clarke’s comments.

    Watched the Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors’ meeting and they cited the strong growth in assessment values. Also, very strong performance in transfer taxes. Both of these will also directly impact School District revenues.

    How refreshing to see an open discussion of the budget, reserve policy, and tradeoffs, led by Chairman Lukens and the Township staff. Again, no Township tax increase in 2018.

    We can only hope the School District will be more positively realistic in their revenue and expense assumptions, open-minded to a different approach, transparent in their discussion, and willing to challenge Mr. McDonnell’s budget.

  2. The new contract is quite clever. The district was able to increase the matrix quite a bit to be more competitive with other districts without applying that cost to the current teachers.

    They do this by adding a new step 17 to the matrix while simultaneously dropping step 1. Then the old steps 2-17 get renamed to the new steps 1 to 16. During that transition, a current teacher on old step 6 will move to new step 6 (old step 7) in the next school year.

    This means that current teachers would move one step as they would normally, but new teachers to the district will start at one step higher than before. Therefore, a current teacher with 5 years experience would still be at step 5 (old step 6 = new step 5) next year, but a teacher that transfers into the district next year with 5 years experience would start at step 6. This is why the added cost is only to new teachers.

    A brand new teacher that joins our district next year would earn $60k more over their first 15 years than a brand new teacher that joined our district last year. That is 5% more salary during those first 15 years.

    The starting salary will jump from $54,722 in 17-18 to $57,046 in 18-19, a 4% increase. However, only new teachers will ever see that jump.

    I have attached a picture of what this means applied to the Masters + 30 salary scale. For old teachers, the matrix changed by 1% per year. For new teachers, the salary scale increased anywhere from 2% to 9% due to the sliding of the steps.

    In short, the district made our matrix more competitive while only slowly adding in that cost as we add new teachers to our district.

    1. Doug,

      Thank-you, for this information and for the countless hours you have committed to serving the citizens, taxpayers and students in this District.

      It is a compliment to you that the TEEA and other forces at work were so afraid of you and your work, they went to the absurd, and put up a teacher to run against you. If not for Trump, I think you would have prevailed but the weight of his unpopularity was too much for anyone in this circumstance to overcome.

      Please remain involved. We need you more than ever.

    2. I agree with Doug that the clever matrix makes the district more competitive while only slowly adding in that cost as we add new teachers. Each new teacher will cost about 5% more under the new matrix than under the old matrix. Is the extra cost justified by a lack of competitiveness? Is TE losing teachers to the competition? Are there are lack of applicants to open teaching positions? Are experienced teachers leaving for other higher paying districts? My experience tells me the answer to these 4 question is no.

  3. It is smart to compress the matrix and mitigate the increase at the top. Nearly 50% of compensation costs come from the top level, where each employee costs the district some $150,000, when PSERS and benefits are factored in. Not only that, but those compensation levels set the benchmark for Administration compensation. Although, note that the Administration 1.7% increase for 2017/18 (before any year-end handouts) already exceeds the top level 0.5% plus $1,000 bonus (not added to salary).

    Perhaps the Finance Committee will require a synthesis and reconciliation of all the numbers listed in the presentation plus those that are not (such as the impact on PSERS and of the last page items). I’m not holding my breath.

    1. But Ray, the new contract does not compress the matrix over the 3 year term. The top step rises 3.5% (0.5% year 1; 1% + $1,250 year 2; 1% year 3) while the rest of the matrix increases by 2.5%. (0.5%; 1%; 1%)

      1. You’re right, Keith; sorry all. I got carried away with the thought that the new top step is only 1.5% or so above the previous step, compared with the 4-10% increases found between each of the last two steps currently. And at least the $1,000 first year bonus is presumably not factored into the base for the later year increases.

  4. I’d be remiss if I didn’t put the handling of the TEEA contract in perspective. The TE school board was more transparent and provided more financial information on the contract than the vast majority of other school boards. Most school boards just vote without revealing any terms or financial details. TE should be congratulated for publicizing the terms of the contract and some costing details just before the vote. Ray and I always want more data and want it well before the contract is signed so the public has an opportunity to weigh in. But this is a start.

    1. A good point, Keith. In fact our Township could learn from some elements of the TESD approach. I’d like to think that community involvement has contributed to that transparency.

      Perhaps just as notable as the release of this data sub-set is that the salary increase numbers provided tie exactly to my independent calculations – to the dollar! (Actually a little scary, since the staff distribution I have is a little out of date).

      BUT …. are we being misled by the appearance of transparency? A point you have often made, Keith, is that we have to add in to contract costs the impact of salary related costs like PSERS and FICA/Medicare. $500,000 to $600,000 incremental per year. So I make it that the contract’s net cost to the taxpayer is ~$1.9 million a year each year, before any costs of the unquantified personal days, sick days, etc.

      AND, how that $1.9 million reconciles with either of:
      “47% of the Act 1 Index” = 0.47*~$2.67 million = ~$1.25 million
      “1.7% of the … budget” = 0.017*$137.4 million = $2.34 million
      remains a mystery.

      1. Ray, You might want to do a right to know request for the calculations. My guess is that the calculations are protected by the negotiations exception, but there is no harm in asking. The district might want to polish their transparency credentials.

  5. A fair contract for both sides. The board didn’t want to make it an us against them thing so I appreciate them staying silent during the process. I also appreciate that the district has skilled teachers who are committed to the children.

    This is a great school district and, selfishly, I want it to remain that way. Not just for my own children but it helps our property values tremendously. Go 15 miles south and my house might be worth half of what it is in this district.

  6. I understand this is a “good” contract, but it is still patently unfair to taxpayers.

    For one thing, the percentages are false because they don’t include step increases…which are still raises.

    Secondly, I know of no on in the private sector or on Social Security (the people paying for this) who will receive anywhere near these types of increases in their income. So, once again, the union wins big and taxpayers lose big.

    Can’t wait until the next contract when a teacher and candidates supported by TEEA this year are in charge. That should really cost.

  7. A question on the ballot asked whether local taxing authorities should be able to exempt residents from paying property taxes on their homes.

    According to official election results, an overwhelming percentage of PA taxpayers voted for the Homestead Exclusion Amendment which would allow local taxing authorities to exempt residents from paying property taxes on their homes.

    Rep. David Maloney (R) of Berks County sponsored the bill. He says he receives a large number of complaints about property taxes. PA has some of the highest property taxes in the nation.

  8. I am always amazed at how residents think increases like this are out of touch with reality. They are not. Not even close. It is a fair contract for both sides. Also, our property values are directly tied to the performance of the school board. Go 15 miles south and your same house would be worth a fraction of what it is in TE.

    I applaud the board for doing a good job on this and not negotiating through the press.

    1. Not true. Lower Merion property values are much higher than TE. TE schools are ranked higher. There’s no relationship between teacher salaries and school rankings. The fleecing of tax payers again.

      1. They said 15 miles south, not east genius. Villanova, Gladwynne, bryn mawr, Haverford, Ardmore, narberth, wynnewood, Merion, bala. Sense a pattern here bud?

        1. North, South, East, West,……makes no difference. Still proves there is no relationship between teacher salaries and school rankings. Taxpayers get fleeced here every contract negotiation. The union has too much power and is driving away senior citizens who made this place what it is.


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