Lower Merion School District teachers and staff believe they deserve a longer, more lucrative contract than the one expiring June 30, but the union president told Patch recent school board actions have "made it all the more difficult" to envision that.
"We think we did our part two years ago in accepting a very modest contract," said Chris Santa Maria, president of the 1,330-member Lower Merion Education Association that represents teachers and other school staff. "We believe the economy is starting to climb and we believe we do a heck of a job in this district. It's the staff that makes the district."
Santa Maria said the district and union have exchanged proposals but that there had been no further talks scheduled as of Wednesday.
"I have not heard from the school board since I wrote a letter three weeks ago stating that we are ready to resume negotiations," said Santa Maria, a Harriton High School teacher since 1993. "These latest developments have definitely lowered morale among the entire staff."
Contacted for comment on the state of negotiations, district spokesman Doug Young said only that they are in progress: "We typically do not comment on active negotiations."
The school board earlier this month used $3.3 million in bond-sale savings to reduce the 2012-2013 tax increase from 3.9 percent to 2 percent. With that money no longer available for staff raises, Santa Maria became less optimistic for a swift contract resolution.
The union went without a contract for more than two months in 2010, reaching an agreement in mid-September. Employees got 1.2 percent and 1.4 percent raises for the two years, each year paying all but 0.1 or 0.2 percent back into health insurance costs.
At the time, Superintendent Chris McGinley called the deal "one of the most fiscally conservative contracts in school history," and Santa Maria this year called it "the lowest raise anyone could remember."
The union is seeking a new contract longer than two years but believes it would be a stretch to get a five-year deal, like the one that spanned 2005-2010, Santa Maria said.
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