2011-02-17 / Front Page

Central Fulton Board, Teachers Pen Contract

Twelve teachers set to retire
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

Basing many of their decisions on the current state of the economy and on fiscal challenges laying ahead on a local, state and national level, members of the Central Fulton Education Association and the district school board took some creative measures in penning their newest teachers’ contract.

Effective July 31, 2011, the three-year contract between CFEA and the Board of Education tackles some priority issues for the district ranging from health insurance to salary increases. All slated to have an effect on the district’s bottom line, perhaps the most startling change is an accompanying retirement package that will result in the early retirement of 12 employees.

Superintendent Dwayne Northcraft told the “News,” that last July administrators began taking a deeper look at staffing needs as they directly correlated to student enrollment numbers. Enrollment figures in the early 1990s revealed approximately 1,200 students were attending Central Fulton. That number decreased to 1,050 by the late ‘90s through 2007 and has dropped even more to 975 students since 2008.

Meanwhile, during the 1993- 94 school year, 81 teachers were overseeing the 1,210 students at the district in comparison to 83 teachers and 975 students this year.

“It is quite clear that a reduction in staff can be accomplished without creating unrealistic class sizes,” said Northcraft. “ ... In resistance to furloughing and with the foresight that steps must be taken now to avoid an economic catastrophe within the next few years, the retirement incentive concept was embraced with the intent of making retirement affordable to those teachers who have the option of retirement.”

The 12 teachers who have signed off on the retirement package are each slated to receive an incentive of $40,000.

“One must understand that the cost of furloughing young teachers is $35,000 due to associated unemployment costs, without considering potential litigation,” Northcraft stated. “This incentive will be a onetime outlay of $480,000 because 9 of the 12 retiring teachers will not be replaced, resulting in a savings of $240,000 the first year and $720,000 annually thereafter.”

“The total years of experience that will be lost is impossible to quantify, and we are grateful for the dedicated years of service that these 12 professionals have provided,” he added.

The resignations are scheduled to be acted on by the school board in May and essentially boil down to one individual within each department at the middle and high schools as well as some extracurricular areas such as art, music and library.

Even though student schedules and selections have not been finalized for the upcoming 2011-12 school year, Northcraft has been assured by building principals and guidance counselors that class sizes will not be unreasonable in comparison to those of neighboring school districts. In addition, administrators remain hopeful that with some better and tighter alignment of schedules between the elementary and middle/high school, offerings like art will be expanded to all students.

“There are not any plans to cut any extracurriculars. We believe our kids need to stay connected to the school,” said the superintendent.

Northcraft went on to say that “teaming” times specifically earmarked for scheduling rewards and activities will now be incorporated into the teachers’ schedules after 2:45 p.m. Teaming activities were previously done during the course of the day, and the new schedule will allow for core content teachers to pick up an extra teaching period daily.

In addition to scheduling changes, Northcraft stated the district is moving forward with plans to continue offering dual enrollment classes and expand AP course offerings to include calculus, English, chemistry and social studies. Options such as “externships” will also be available at the high school for students wanting to gain some valuable unpaid work experience in moving toward their career goal.

Other key topics covered in the newest union contract is an average salary increase that is listed at 1.3 percent in the first two years of the contract and finishing at 2 percent in year three. The area of compensation and fringe benefits is also slated to change in July, when the district will offer healthcare coverage to eligible employees and their defendants through two plans, a preferred provider plan (PPO) and a high deductible health plan (HDHP) combined with a health savings account.

In the event that a husband and wife are both employed by the district, the contract stipulates it remains the district’s discretion to select coverage so as not to provide duplicative or more costly coverage. Employees choosing a PPO will now share in the annual cost at a minimum of 7.5 percent of annual premium. The HDHP requires no premium sharing.

The contract further stipulates if the premium increase defined by the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit Consortium Insurance Trust exceeds the allowable increase, the employee premium share will increase by half of the amount above the allowable percentage increase. Allowable increases set forth in the contract are 20 percent in 2011-12; 15 percent in 2012-13; and 10 percent in 2013- 15.

Teachers are also given the option of declining individual or family coverage and can receive $1,500 cash in lieu of coverage.

“The changes in healthcare coverage result in significant savings compared to the previous contract,” Northcraft pointed out.

“The board members met with the teachers’ negotiating team and explained the loss of revenue that schools are experiencing while driving home their concerns for the economic hardships that people are facing. In return, the teachers were willing to change their healthcare plans and settle for lower increases than many districts are offering instead of choosing not to negotiate and work using their current contract language,” he concluded.

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