December 16, 2021

Pike Township approves 5% teacher raise after months of tension

Around 220 educators teach about 3,400 students at the Pike High School. - (WFYI File Photo)

Around 220 educators teach about 3,400 students at the Pike High School.

(WFYI File Photo)

This story was updated Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021 at 7:52 p.m.

Pike Township Schools board members unanimously ratified a new teacher compensation contract Thursday after months of contention between parents, teachers and district leaders. Students were forced into remote learning multiple times due to a lack of instructional staff. Some parents even petitioned for the superintendent to step down.

Pike School Board President Terry A. Webster, Sr. said the past three months were the toughest members faced at the district as they took “lumps and hits” from the public questioning their commitment.

Board member Alonzo Anderson said he admired the passion and loyalty shown by teachers and support staff during contract negotiations. Last month teachers and the district missed a state deadline to approve an agreement and entered into mediation. 

"Now with this contract, we can build off that, and I do appreciate that. I called it firefighter courage,” said Anderson, who works for the fire department in Monrovia. “That is rare."

Pike Teachers Association President Chris Ludy said district leaders and staff must focus on communication, transparency and trust in the new year.

“I believe if we all address these three issues we will achieve great things," he said to the board.

The one-year contract will give educators an average salary raise of more than 5 percent. The base salaries, raises, and benefits will total almost $2.6 million. This is higher than one of the district’s initial offers of $2.3 million that was rejected by the education association.

Members of the teachers union have long wanted salary adjustments for “middle year teachers” — educators with five to 25 years of experience. The tentative agreement includes flat-dollar increases based on an educator’s higher education degree and the number of years they have taught.

The proposed base salary range for teachers is $45,000 - $88,962, according to the contract. There are roughly 700 full-time teachers at Pike schools.

Earlier this week Pike’s chief financial officer Krista Kelly said the contract aims to focus on raising wages for teachers with eight to 22 years of experience.

“We want to provide the teachers with as much compensation as we can,” Kelly said. “We value teachers very much. I’m a former teacher, my husband’s a teacher — I understand the role of teachers. However, we also have to make sure that within the education fund, we are providing raises for our [instructional assistants], our occupational and physical therapists, for our secretaries at the schools — for all of the people who are paid out of the education fund.”

The agreement comes after Pike Township schools have switched to remote learning multiple times due to a lack of instructional staff. The teachers union has also announced a vote of no confidence in Superintendent Flora Reichanadter.

Although the teachers union didn’t get everything they wanted in the new contract, Ludy said there had to be some give and take.

"There’s things we gave up, there’s things they gave up — that’s bargaining negotiations," he said Tuesday.

Ludy and board president Webster said they hope to have less learning disruptions once the contract is ratified. 

Breakdown of $7 million resolution

Last week, the district approved a resolution to use up to $7 million from the education fund for salaries. Some of the funds will go toward existing salary costs, teacher pay stipends and the district’s fund balance:

  • About $1.75 million will go toward covering the cost of employee benefits that were under budgeted last year.
  • About $1.3 million will go toward pay stipends, which will be used for multiple instances, such as compensating experienced teachers who did not receive a base pay increase.
  • Roughly $500,000 will go toward other under budgeted costs for professional services such as substitute teacher and nurse contracts.

Kelly said the remaining money from the resolution will be saved in a reserved fund in case of emergencies.

“We want to make sure that we have enough in our savings that if something happens, we have the ability to pay for it,” Kelly said.

WFYI education editor Eric Weddle contributed to this report.

Contact WFYI education reporter Elizabeth Gabriel at egabriel@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @_elizabethgabs.

 

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