A fellow educator is urging the South Middleton School Board to press forward with negotiations and settle on a new contract with its teachers union.
Carol Yanity, a reading teacher with the Cumberland Valley School District, lives in the Boiling Springs area and has children who attend South Middleton schools.
“In the last three to four years, we have had an influx of teachers from this district to Cumberland Valley,” Yanity said at a school board meeting Monday. She did not elaborate on how many and at what grade levels.
Yanity has asked the former South Middleton teachers why they have changed jobs to work for Cumberland Valley, which has a longer school year.
“The answer has been because of the contract,” Yanity said. “This is the second time in four years that they do not have a contract.”
The South Middleton Education Association has been working without a contract since a two-year extension on the previous contract expired on June 30. Negotiations for a new pact started in January.
In a show of solidarity, a standing room only crowd of mostly teachers attended the South Middleton School Board meeting. While none of them spoke during the meeting, their presence was felt as the new board president, Randy Varner, took over the helm from Michael Berk.
“We have some pretty big challenges coming up,” Varner said during a brief recess between the board reorganization meeting and the regular meeting. He mentioned the search for a new superintendent and the need to make sure that acting Superintendent Bruce Deveney has the support he needs.
“While we are looking for that superintendent, we need to finalize our contract with the teachers,” Varner said. “The good thing is through all of this we have an exceptional backstop in our professional staff. While we are working on these issues, we know we have excellent teachers in the classroom everyday with our students doing what needs to be done.”
In comments made during the regular meeting, Yanity said South Middleton school teachers have the lowest compensation of any school teachers in Cumberland County. No salary information was provided to support that claim.
Yanity said the school board is costing taxpayers money. “These teachers come into South Middleton,” she said. “They get training and professional development and tuition [reimbursement] and then they take that [expertise] with them when they leave. It is disruptive to students in regards to consistency in curriculum and delivery of instruction.
“We are very fortunate with the teachers we have,” Yanity said of South Middleton faculty members. Yanity said she and her husband chose to settle in South Middleton because of the quality of the community and the reputation of its school district.
“The school board has been busy trying to hire a superintendent and got a little held up with the sale of the hospital,” said Mike Freese, a social studies teacher at Boiling Springs High School who is also president of the local union representing about 172 teachers.
Freese was referring to a recently approved five-year education contribution agreement between South Middleton School District and UPMC Pinnacle. Under the agreement, the health care system has agreed to make voluntary contributions in lieu of property tax payments on its UPMC Pinnacle Health Carlisle Regional Medical Center property in South Middleton Township.
The medical center was sold this year and Pinnacle applied for nonprofit status for the facility. The district negotiated the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement to make up for some of the revenue that would be lost with that change in status.
By “new board,” Freese was referring to board members John Greenbaum, Jon Still and Denise MacIvor who were sworn in Monday by outgoing board president Michael Berk. The three take over from Tom Merlie, Scott Witwer and Robert Winters, who opted not to run for reelection. Incumbent Stacey Knavel was reelected.
The board Monday voted unanimously to elect Varner its president and Steven Bear its vice-president. As one of his first official actions, Varner publicly thanked Berk and welcomed the three new board members.
“Through the last two years, this board has dealt with many difficult and challenging issues and, through it all, Mike has led us as president and exhibited to us patience, respect and a solid work ethic,” Varner said. “He did all of that with his good nature.
“To the new directors, we are going to need your talent right away,” Varner said. “We are thrilled that you are joining us and look forward to working with you.”