By DIANE M. BITTING
Special to the Advocate
The Elizabethtown school board approved a union contract with the Elizabethtown Area Education Association that would give Elizabethtown Area School District teachers and related professionals an average salary increase of 2.9% over five years.
The agreement was ratified by a 7-1 vote at the board’s meeting on Tuesday, June 11. Board member Michael Martin cast the only no vote. (Board member Erin Grosh was absent.) It runs from July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2025.
Martin prefaced his vote by stating that his opposition “in no way reflects my appreciation and gratitude for the teachers in the district.”
Martin, who has two children in the district, said his experience has been that “our teachers are very dedicated to our students, care a lot about their learning and their success.” Teaching, he acknowledged, is “a tough job.”
But, he added, based upon his assessment of the district’s finances and wanting smaller property tax increases, “I was hoping for a contract that would provide more
savings compared to our current contract.”
The new contract will have an increase of 3% for 2020-21 followed by an increase of 2.875% for each of the following four years.
According to district spokesman Troy Portser, the current three-year contract, which expires June 30, 2020, has salary increases of 3.25% for two years and 2.875% for the third year, for an average of 3.125%.
The new contract also includes district contributions to health savings accounts of $1,000 for single coverage and $2,000 for two-party and family coverage. Portser said that is a reduction from the current contract, which provides $1,200 for single coverage, $2,400 for two-party coverage and $2,700 for family coverage.
Before voting, board member Menno Riggleman said he did research to confirm that the contract was a “fair deal” compared to surrounding school districts, in both Lancaster and neighboring counties; therefore, he voted yes. He clarified after the meeting that he wanted to verify that Elizabethtown’s salary increase was lower than those other districts.
After the vote, board President Terry Seiders congratulated the union and thanked union members for their participation.
“This gives us, and you, six years of labor peace and good working relationships moving forward,” Seiders said.
Seiders said it was his understanding that the union membership had already ratified the contract.
The board also heard Daniel Serfass, assistant to the superintendent for learning, describe three new initiatives. One would update the district’s science curriculum for first through eighth graders in the areas of life, physical and earth sciences.
The second will implement a “personalized learning” model at the recently renovated Bainbridge Elementary School this coming school year, to eventually be used at all the primary buildings. The model would involve five teachers for second and third grades, with “vertical learning” and mixed-grade classrooms. Because of an unexpected increase in enrollment at Bainbridge, a teacher from East High Elementary will be assigned to Bainbridge, Serfass said.
Also, the administration is looking to offer a military program for high school students in cooperation with the Department of Defense. It could be a Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program for 100-plus students and/or a National Defense Cadet Corps program for 50 students. (National Defense Cadet Corps is similar to JROTC, but schools do not get financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Defense for NDCC.) In order to offer the program in the 2020-21 school year, applications are due this September.
Serfass described the program, which includes science- based curriculum along with leadership and character development, as robust and well-rounded.
“Clearly, this program supports our Life Ready model,” he said. He also noted that instructors can directly nominate students for military academies.