Teachers and TASD hopeful about contract

BY JOSH MROZINSKI

The School Board last Thursday extended the ESP contract for one year through June 30, 2008, to allow it to focus on negotiations with the teachers’ bargaining unit, Superintendent Michael Healey said.

He added that the School Board and teachers’ bargaining unit are still in discussions and said, “board views that as a positive direction.”

Healey wouldn’t comment further.

The previous teachers’ contract ran from Sept. 1, 2001, through Aug. 31, 2006. Negotiations began in November 2005.

“It’s longer than we’d liked it to be, but until we reach an agreement it will go on,” Pennsylvania State Education spokesman Paul Shemansky said.

He described salaries as one of the sticking points and said that Tunkhannock Area teachers are paid around $500-$4,000 below the statewide average.

In the expired contract, first-year teachers who have a bachelor’s degree were paid an annual salary of $34,320 in 2005-06.

According to the state Department of Education, the statewide average salary for first-year teachers with a bachelor’s degree in 2005-06 was $35,782.

“The bargaining unit is looking for reasonable compensation for teachers,” Shemansky said. “We want a settlement that’s fair to everybody.”

He noted that health insurance premiums and pension are other issues being discussed, but couldn’t provide any detail.

Tunkhannock Area Education Association Vice President Jan Cechak described the negotiations as a sensitive matter and said, “We’re trying to keep this professional. We’re very optimistic in getting a settlement.”