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With 'Lowered Morale,' Lower Merion Teachers Push For Better Contract

The current two-year deal expires June 30.

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 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 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, . 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.

Do the teachers deserve a better deal? Is the economy still too shoddy to accommodate them? Use the comment field below to post your opinion.

Selma Davis April 26, 2012 at 02:57 PM
I hate to sound like a fanatic, conservative Republican because I am not. Here comes the but. For too long, the public service unions have held the public hostage. It was either give in to our demands or we will go on strike and leave you in the lurch. There MUSt be a compromise meeting of the minds that results in an equitable solution for both the workers and the tax payers. And for the teachers, the solution MUST include the interests of the students. Even if the contract does not include after school sessions with groups (or individual) students, the good teachers, those who care that their students learn, will provide the time anyway.
Adrian Seltzer April 26, 2012 at 04:25 PM
I suggest all the school districts in Southeastern PA group together to get lower rates from the insurance companies. Also administration and the school board should pay more attention to actions that cost taxpayers millions in legal fees and settlements.
Eric Campbell April 26, 2012 at 05:22 PM
On Facebook, Dick Wexelblat says: "Heck, teaching is such a pleasure they ought to do it for free. Oh wait, that's what the XXXXXXX party seems to think."
Coach Clark June 28, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Amen. Public service worke should not be a path to six-figure slaries and pensions for 180-190 day work years. Public sector strikes must be outlawed.

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