School board talks budget, teacher contracts

While neither the proposed final budget nor teacher contract negotiations were on the agenda, both were aired out during the May 18 Unionville-School Board meeting.

During the public comment period, seven members of the audience stood up to say basically the same thing, pay the teachers better.

Birmingham Township resident Kristin Walker told he board that she doesn’t object to paying higher property taxes for the school system.

“We call those high taxes our private school tuition,” she said in reference to the district’s high quality. But she added that the contract offer is not what it should be. “You can do better than that.”

Another person said she doesn’t know what the teachers are asking for, “but I’m on their side.”

Cecilia Tang, of East Marlborough, is a 2005 Unionville High School graduate who said it’s the teachers who create “a culture of excellence in the district” and that those teachers are worth paying higher property taxes.

School Board Director Keith Knauss said the teachers are asking for a 4.6 percent increase each year on a three-year contract, but the board is currently offering a 2.1 percent increase.

Knauss referred to a “2 percent world,” in which the Social Security cost of living index is 1.7 percent, the state’s Act 1 index for school tax increases is 1.9 percent, and the employer cost index for elementary and secondary school employees is 2 percent.

He said his neighbors, many of whom are on fixed incomes, and young parents are not seeing any 4 percent increases in pay or benefits and it would be improper for the school district to have them pay for more than they themselves are getting.

Knauss said the 2.1 percent proposal is fair to both teachers and taxpayers.

During the board’s May 11 work session, Knauss suggested a tax increase — a weighted average between the Chester and Delaware County residents — of 2.1 percent as opposed to an increase of 2.85 percent.

The board voted 5-4 in favor of the lesser increase.

Fellow Director Michael Rock adamantly disagreed with Knauss.

“I don’t live in a 2 percent world…We live in one of the richest districts in the county…We didn’t get great by being cheap, and we won’t stay great by being cheap,” he said.

He added that he was disappointed with the May 11 vote, a sentiment echoed by board Vice President Gregg Lindner.

Lindner added that contract negotiations with the teachers are continuing.

James Conley is named the new principal of Unionville High School.

James Conley is named the new principal of Unionville High School.

School Board directors are scheduled to vote on next year’s budget during their June 18 meeting and the proposed tax rate could change. The current proposal can be found here.

Other business

• The board appointed James Conley to replace Paula Massanari as Unionville High School principal. Conley was the school’s vice principal for two years and is a former English teacher. He taught at Unionville for 10 of his 16 years as a teacher.

• There was also a brief presentation from the district’s Wellness Committee, which was formed to develop action plans focusing on student health issues. One such focus is on raising awareness about concussions. More discussion is planned for the June work session, according to Superintendent John Sanville.

 

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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One Response to “School board talks budget, teacher contracts”

  1. Jeanne-Marie Curtis says:

    I find it interesting that the focus on salary increases in our school district, is on percentages only. As a public school, do we not have the right to access of the actual, annual salaries of each teaching level within the district? What requirements are needed to reach various levels?

    A 4 percent increase on a $40,000 position is $1,600 per year.
    I say reasonable.
    A 4 percent increase on a $90,000 position is $3,360 per year.
    I say ridiculous.

    What salary ranges are we talking about?
    How is it possible to have an opinion on district salary increases without this basic knowledge of current salaries?

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