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Top story for 2007: TASD approves new busing contract and teachers’ contract

(Editor’s note: Today continues The Daily Herald’s annual series of top local stories for the year.)
The Tyrone Area School Board approved two new contracts in the school district this year. This past July, board members approved a five-year contract with Raystown Transit Service to provide student transportation, effective with the 2007-08 school year. The board also approved the professional teacher contract between the Tyrone Area Education Association and the Tyrone Area School District this past September, avoiding the possibility of a strike by the teachers.
The school board terminated the district’s contract with Rayco Transportation over the summer and soon after the board approved a five-year contract with Raystown Transit Service, giving the district the option of renewing if they are satisfied with Raystown’s services. All but two of the former Rayco Transportation drivers signed on to drive for Raystown Transit and continued to transport Tyrone students.
Denise Beck of Rayco reported to the school district after signing their contract for the 2007-08 school year, her insurance would be raised $15,000 for the upcoming school year.
School district officials said that the TASD has always paid the state reimbursement for transportation to the bus contractors, which is what neighboring Bellwood-Antis and other central PA school districts are paying bus contractors. Superintendent Dr. William Miller stated that the TASD has always stood by these transportation contracts.
There was also an issue that many of Rayco’s fleet of buses were old and needed replaced.
Raystown Transit service started in the busing business in 1995 with one bus in the Juniata Valley School District. The present operation includes nearly 100 vehicles serving seven school districts in Blair and Huntingdon counties.
The TASB also approved a new teachers’ contract in September of this year, covering the three-year period of July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2010. School board members voted unanimously in favor of the new contract 8-0, with board member Peter Dutrow absent from the meeting.
On September 4, the school board and the union accepted the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board fact-finder’s report by Robert C. Gifford. Teacher’s reportedly voted 60-55 in favor, the board 9-0. It recommended a 21-year step system that would increase starting salaries each year, from last year’s $32,000 to $34,586 in the 2009-10 school year. Top salary for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree will be increased each year, from the current $59,244 to $63,586 in 2009-10.
The TASD superintendent was pleased to have a contract for the next three years.
“We feel it’s a very fair, impartial decision of the fact-finder, which the school board accepted in total, and that creates a positive climate for the school,” added Miller.
Through the negotiating process, the major dispute between the district and the members of its teachers’ union was due to how many years it would take for a teacher to reach maximum salary. According to the union, the district’s former scale hit max salary at 41 years and the district’s estimation was 36 years.
The teachers’ union believed the pay scale lagged behind neighboring school districts when salary was calculated over the course of a career.
Tyrone Area Education Association chief negotiator and TASD English department chair Steve Everhart appreciated the generosity of the school board. He said that the raises were better than in past years and he was pleased about that.
“We are grateful for the contract and we hope the school board continues to recognize the quality of work the teachers do in the future,” added Everhart.
Board member and school district chief negotiator Amy Stever felt the board made the first step in a process that takes some time, and as time moves forward, she believes everyone can continue on with that progress.
Stever said, “It’s not a quick process. It’s definitely well thought out, well planned, well discussed, and therefore both sides get the opportunity to really weigh what’s right, or what’s the best opportunity and best plan for the students. The students were the ones that both sides kept their eyes on.”
“I think the town should be very pleased with the teachers and our response,” added Stever.