Both sides agree the decision to ratify a teacher contract extension gives the Cumberland Valley School District the time and stability it needs to weather changes brought on by a surge in enrollment.
School board members Tuesday ratified a three-year extension to the current contract terms the district has with the Cumberland Valley Education Association.
The board vote came a week after a majority of CVEA members ratified the extension to cover the period from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2021. Without the extension, the pact would have expired on June 30, 2018.
“There’s a tremendous amount of transition in the district,” Superintendent Fred Withum III said Tuesday. “We’re opening up two new schools in the near future. We’re redistricting. We are reorganizing high school programs. An extension of the current contract and the framework that everybody understands really gives us some stability for the next four years.”
The four years include the final year of the current contract plus the three-year extension. This would put the need to grant a further extension or renegotiate terms out past the time the new schools are operating and many of the enrollment issues are addressed.
Gene Yanity, a science teacher at Cumberland Valley High School who served as chairman of the CVEA negotiations committee, said, “I’m rather pleased that we were able to reach this agreement. This contract extension will provide fair compensation to teachers and provide financial flexibility to the administration and school board.”
The extension includes an average salary increase of 2.8 percent in each year of the extension, which is consistent with the prior increases under the current contract. The decision to ratify comes as the district is grappling with enrollment that has grown by over 1,650 students since 2010.
By approving the extension, CVEA members are bringing to the school board a level of certainty in financial and staffing projections that is both necessary and appreciated during this time of unprecedented enrollment growth, said Robert Walker, a board member and chairman of the district negotiation committee.
The school board and its administration approached CVEA leaders in July with an offer of a contract extension, Yanity said. Several negotiating sessions followed between the district represented by Withum and business manager Michael Willis and the CVEA represented by its president and president-elect. Both sides had a negotiations committee directing the talks.
“Because it was a contract extension, we stuck to salary and health care,” Yanity said. “Both sides left a lot of important language issues behind because to actually get into those types of things is not really part of an extension.”
Under the extension, health care contributions for employees participating in the district’s wellness plan will increase from 13.5 percent to 14 percent, and nonwellness participants’ contributions will rise from 16.5 percent to 17 percent.
The agreement also calls for the establishment of a joint committee with CVEA to explore an option for, and become further educated about, the fundamentals and concepts of a qualified high deductible health plan and health savings account for professional staff.
The district currently offers a high deductible plan with an optional health savings account for its administrative staff. Under the extension, new employees starting in 2018 will be capped for reimbursement for graduate work at 84 credits.
“We very much appreciate the fair and open conversations with the school board,” Yanity said Tuesday.