East Penn Press

Monday, June 1, 2020

east penn school district Collective bargaining agreement reached with East Penn Education Association

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 by PETER MCCONNELL Special to The Press in Local News

In their first meeting since June, and the first meeting with new superintendent Dr. Michael Schilder, East Penn School Board approved business items including bond refinancing, collective bargaining agreements and professional development consultation.

The board approved the collective bargaining agreement negotiations with the East Penn Education Association. It is a four-year agreement effective July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2019. Among the negotiations are a 2.5 percent increase in salary per year for union members; a 2.5 percent increase in pay for extra duties; a switch from Traditional and PBLU2 medical plans to the current PPO1 plan and then the PPO6 plan in 2017; an increase in co-pays for prescription drugs; and a salary increase of $1,000 granted to each employee who obtains National Board Certification, pro-rated in the first year.

Donches was opposed to the appearance of the agreement on the agenda as an addendum, meaning it was not presented to the board in their informational packets last week and therefore allowing for less time to review. Donches's objection was also based on the fact the public had had no time to review the item as it was not on the main agenda.

Donches further noted she would have liked to see the practice of withdrawing union dues removed from the contract, an item she said she had also received commentary on from the board's constituents. Donches's motion to defer the agreement's approval until the next board meeting failed for lack of a second.

"We came to a fair compromise that serves the teachers well, but more importantly it serves our students well and it serves the taxpayers in this district well," Board Chair Alan Earnshaw said of the agreement.

A presentation from Public Financial Management representative Scott Shearer showed a potential savings to the district of $320,000 to be realized by refinancing bonds. Shearer said the savings is due mostly to low interest rates at present, dropping from 4 percent to 1 percent.

Shearer also noted to date a $12.5 million savings had been realized in the district since 1998.

The board approved the renewal of a Consultation Services Agreement contract with Dr. Rebecca Woodland lasting into June 2015. Woodland provides planning and consultation services for the District Instructional Leadership Team which Schilder praised fervently.

Woodland's contract also includes professional development services, centered on planning and facilitating the DILT session to be held next June in Emmaus. The cost for Woodland's services this year are much lower, coming in at $7,500.

Donches opposed the renewal of this contract, questioning whether outside services were necessary and whether they might be phased out after the expiration of this contract.

Schilder said in his experience, "It's helpful to bring someone in with the same experience and more experience than anybody else has. When you don't do that, the staff craves for outside opinion and experiences….She is a national if not international caliber presenter."

Schilder continued, "She has the ability to bring together initiatives, not in a trendy way but with solid research."

When asked whether the professional development consultant might be internally based next year, Schilder said "maybe not," and he would be better able to answer that question at the end of the year.

According to the district update from Schilder, enrollment is up to 8,028 from 7,975 at the end of June. Schilder reminded the board this number may still fluctuate as students who enrolled may not show up the first day of classes.

The district's technology program continues forward, Schilder said. The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program initiated last year is carrying into fifth grade now, and Schilder reported it was very successful in its pilot year.

Schilder also made a report on his experience of the district in the last few weeks and his immediate plans.

"First I want to assist staff with managing new state and federal grants. New initiatives are being handed to us and it's important to help the administrative team and really help teachers to be able to implement that. I want to look at ways we can streamline what we currently have. Are there any redundancies?" Schilder said.

The superintendent also announced his intention to look closely into curriculum, particularly the organization, the department as a whole, articulation, staffing and development of curriculum.

In keeping with his intention to work on both internal and external lines of communication, Schilder has initiated a superintendent "e-blast" which he will use not as a monthly newsletter but as a means of communication during times of controversy and crisis, to quell rumors and encourage communication in general with the public.

The school district will enter the new school year with a fleet of new buses, 90 percent of which are propane fueled, according to Tom Mirabella, director of student services. East Penn is currently the only district in Lehigh County to use propane buses.

In terms of fuel costs, the propane buses offer what Mirabella termed a "tremendous" savings. Where diesel is over $3.80 per gallon now, propane rings in at $1.83. The 200,000 gallons purchased by the school district will likely last through next year's summer school program, Mirabella said after the meeting.