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TASD board ratifies state contract recommendation

It’s official: There will be no faculty walkout at Tyrone Area School District as the board, following a special vote Tuesday night, overwhelmingly agreed to ratify terms of a new contract that the teachers’ association voted to accept last week.
“We are pleased that we finally have an agreement,” said TASD superintendent Dr. William Miller. “Once we get the details ironed out, we’ll have a three-year contract which will affect the salaries of 142 teachers and one part-time teacher.
“From the start, it was a solid negotiation process, marked with a sense of mutual respect.”
The school board tally was 9-0 to accept the recommendation offered by a state-appointed fact finder, now identified as attorney Robert Gifford. He was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board to develop the report.
Last Tuesday, members of the teachers’ association were first to cast votes on Gifford’s findings and, though the results of that ballot were initially kept confidential from everyone except the school board, it was apparent that the teachers had accepted the new terms due to the fact that, according to state law, if either side rejected the proposal, it would then be made public. That did not happen.
The district was informed of the teachers’ vote to accept the agreement Friday.
Miller said since receiving the state report, the board “analyzed it and studied its financial impact.” He said the recommendation “fits in the budget” and, even though many teachers will receive raises right away, depending on their position on the salary scale, the new contract will require no tax increase.
“We’re very comfortable with it,” he said.
Rumor circulated last Wednesday of a 60-55 teachers’ vote to accept. This was confirmed last night. It was also verified that the association had voted last week to authorize a strike should the board have decided to reject the state proposal.
Stephen Everhart, Tyrone Area School District English department chair and negotiator for the teachers’ association, indicated that the teachers’ vote was so tight because the state fact finder recommendation “favored the school board.”
“We’re glad to have it resolved,” Everhart said during an interview with The Daily Herald. “We still can’t discuss specifics of the state report until the fact finder is formally notified, but it’s our feeling that the proposal was closer to the school board’s proposal than what we were hoping for.
“The teachers’ narrow vote to accept is an indicator of that.”
Superintendent Miller warned that the result of last week’s teachers’ vote is somewhat misleading, noting that over 20 district instructors — many of them new hires — did not cast ballots.
Everhart confirmed that some teachers did not vote on the proposal, but contended that, due to the extremely close tally, those votes could’ve swayed the outcome the other way.
The main sticking point in the contract dispute was language dealing with salary scale. Tyrone teachers wanted to be able to “climb the pay scale ladder” more quickly than the previous contract allowed. Under the old contract, which expired June 30, it took instructors upwards of 41 years to reach maximum pay. By comparison, Everhart said educators in neighboring districts reach those levels much more quickly.
While both parties have agreed to accept the state recommendation, Miller said the contract is still tentative; however, he noted, he’s sure everything will come together from this point forward.
“We’ve had tentative agreements with the teachers’ association regarding other contract points aside from the salary issue and the two groups will meet very shortly to finalize everything,” Miller explained. “I’m very confident this will happen and we’ll move forward.”
Specifics of the new contract will remain confidential until the school’s board’s vote is officially reported to the state fact finder. That is expected to happen sometime today.
“We’re hoping that we can continue to work on this in the future so we can get closer to something that has broader appeal,” Everhart said. “But for now, we’re glad to have an agreement.”