The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

September 10, 2013

Leaders of school board, teachers union, agree mentoring should be reduced

By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News

DANVILLE — Leaders of both the school board and teacher’s union agree that there should be a reduction in the district’s three-year mentoring program, which this year carried a price tag of about $14,000.

Allan Schappert, president of the school board, and Dave Fortunato, president and head negotiator of the Danville Education Association, agree that the state-required minimum of one year of mentoring should be enough for most newly hired teachers.

Fortunato said that when he joined the district 17 years ago he greatly benefitted from the one-year mentoring program used at the time. “Adding two years would have been nothing more than a burden and would have taken time away from my preparation for classes,” he wrote via email.

Fortunato did, however, disagree with Schappert’s “condescending and negative remarks” towards the program, which were made at the Aug. 27 school board meeting.

At the meeting, Schappert referred to the program’s current three-year form as a waste of taxpayer dollars. “I see virtually no benefit,” said Schappert. He particularly called out the third year of the program, when teachers build a portfolio, calling it little more than a scrapbooking course.

“I’d like to think our people are a little more intelligent and have a better use of their time,” he said.

Schappert did praise curriculum director Dawn Brookhart for putting together an excellent educational curriculum, despite the three-year program written into the teacher contract.

While Fortunato agreed that he did not see much value in the three-year program, the proper place to hold such a discussion would be at the negotiation table and with the district’s superintendent, Cheryl Latorre, he said.

The program was put into the contract about seven to eight years, ago. Brookhart and subsequent administrators ended up inheriting the three-year mentoring program, Fortunato said.

When they accepted the three-year program into the contract, the union and school board understood more costs would be involved, said Fortunato, who was not head of the union at the time. “Both sides understood there was more work being asked…There was no fight.”

Schappert had just recently joined the school board at the time and voted for the three-year program after it was approved by the district superintendent. He said he would have voted differently if he knew what he does today.

Any cost difference between a three-year and one-year program would depend on the number of teachers involved being mentored, Schappert said.

First year mentors are paid a stipend of $800 per teacher mentored while second and third year mentors are paid $500 per teacher mentored.

This year, nineteen district teachers are serving as mentors. There are a total of 22 teachers being mentored, 10 in the first year of the program, four in the second year and eight in the third, for a total cost of $14,000.

It is possible the mentor program could be reduced as part of ongoing contract negotiations between the teacher’s union and the district, Fortunato said, however he did not want to go into details while those talks were still ongoing.

Schappert also said such a reduction could be possible, but “it would take two to tango.”

“Right now the discussion is focused on bigger things,” he said, namely salary and benefit rates.

The next meeting between the teacher’s union and the school district is scheduled for Sept. 17.


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