Congratulations to all involved in finalizing a new teachers’ contract in the Shikellamy School District. It was done without much fanfare and, fortunately, drama, that can often accompany this process.
These are not easy deals to accomplish.
Few things can turn relatively good relationships sour quicker than a contract negotiation between a school board and its teachers’ union. It’s a product of the system, where faults and inefficiencies are highlighted more than the good things so many have accomplished together as a way to set the bar for negotiations.
The Shikellamy School District and the Shikellamy Education Association recently signed off a new five-year dealwill run through 2024.
Clearly there was some give and take. Fortunately for the district, the teachers and the students, both sides were able to come to what seems like a reasonable agreement without any threats of work stoppage or drawn-out negotiations.
It was just a handful of years ago when more than half of the Valley’s school districts had teachers working without contracts and faced uncertain labor futures. Two districts — Shamokin and Line Mountain — had work stoppages that extended the school year.
This proactive approach by Shikellamy officials and the union will save a lot of people a lot of headaches moving forward.
“The contract represents a great deal of sacrifice and cooperation between the Shikellamy Education Association and the school board,” teacher’s union lead negotiator Ingrid Howard said. “It acknowledges the current economic climate at Shikellamy and guarantees labor rest. Both negotiating teams worked very diligently to reach an agreement.”
Teachers will receive a 3 percent increase in pay, but will now pay deductibles for their health insurance for the next three years. Previous contracts had zero deductible.
“This took a lot of time and long hours,” the district’s lead negotiator, Director Scott Karpinski, said. “I thank my team and (superintendent) Dr. (Jason) Bendle or we’d still be trying to get this contract done. It was a lot of hard work and not easy to make both sides happy.”
Successful negotiations are often done without much fanfare. They are banged out behind closed doors between well-meaning groups that have larger interests in mind.
Their hard work and flexibility deserve to be recognized.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher and top newsroom executives. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.