Wide gap in Ringgold teacher salary offers

Observer-Reporter In 2005, teachers in the Ringgold School District went on strike.

Ringgold School District teachers and negotiators for the school board were far apart in terms of salary offers brought to the table, a state Labor Relations Board report indicates.

The teachers’ union was seeking raises totalling 12.48 percent over four years, while the district wanted instructors to accept a one-year wage freeze and raises of 3.76 percent stretched over the remaining two years of a three-year contract, according to the PLRB fact-finder’s report made public Friday.

The PLRB in April, under state law, appointed fact-finder Michelle Miller-Kotula to the impasse between the district and Ringgold Education Association, which represents 217 teachers. Both sides held negotiations 16 times since January 2013, and the teachers requested a fact-finder after they were unable to reach an agreement with the district. She conducted a hearing May 15 and issued her report five days later, a document that was then sealed from public view for 10 days.

The union, meanwhile, authorized a walkout at the discretion of negotiators representing the association, who have yet to call a strike. The teachers also have been working since August without a contract.

Kotula sided with the district’s request for a one-year wage freeze. Her contract proposal, which was overwhelmingly rejected Thursday by the teachers, would have given the teachers raises of 7.9 percent over the final three years of a 4-year contract.

A teacher with a bachelor’s degree, under that proposal would have earned $34,000 last term. A teacher with the same level of education at the top step of the salary scale would have earned $74,758, the PLRB report shows. Those salaries would have risen to $35,500 and $76,258, respectively, in the fourth year of the contract.

The fact-finder also agreed with the district’s offer to exclude teacher spouses from Ringgold’s health-care benefits if those spouses have coverage available at their places of employment, the record indicates.

That health-care proposal was the main issue that stalled the contract, Fritz Fekete, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said Thursday.

“The association states its proposal is fair, reasonable and affordable to the district,” the fact-finder’s report states.

The district also contended its offer was fair, adding it cannot afford the higher salaries over concerns about the costs of health-care, pensions, cyber/charter education, special eduction and building renovations, the PLRB reporter states.

“The district cannot afford this type of salary restructuring,” the report states.

The union is required to take a second vote on the contract on the table, something that will take place today.

Scott Beveridge has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1986 after previously working at the Daily Herald in Monongahela. He is a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s fine arts and art education programs and Duquesne University’s master of liberal arts program. He is a 2004 World Affairs journalism fellow.


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