A crowd turned out at the Southern Lehigh School Board meeting Monday night for a vote on assistant superintendent Leah Christman's appointment to the new position of substitute superintendent (which the board approved unanimously), but it was the new teachers contract also approved by the board that took center stage.
"This is unprecedented in the state. Other districts will be looking at this as a model [to consider]," outgoing school board member Bill Miracle said of the new four-year contract, which the teachers union approved before the board meeting.
The contract contains raises for the teachers. But what Miracle was referring to is a clause that allows the board to adjust the baseline raises up or down by .25 percent based on parameters including PSERS (retirement) contributions, health insurance premiums and taxes collected by the district.
"Our teachers have long been educational stakeholders. We think this collective bargaining makes them district stakeholders -- and takes us a step forward in the right direction," board member Dr. Thomas McLoughlin said, quoting an email received from a fellow board member. "This is innovative."
The contract gives teachers and staff a 3.1 percent raise the first two years and a 2.8 percent raise the final two years. The reason for the two amounts, McLoughlin explained, was to offset the anticipated increase of senior teachers on the Solehi staff in upcoming years.
The single voice against the agreement was board member John Quigley. "Has our financial situation changed drastically [since the spring financial meetings]," he asked. "We're looking at cutting drastically over the next four years. This agreement [may force us] to cut programs for our kids, or teachers."
The board voted to accept the contract, with McLoughlin, outgoing board president Mike Eddinger, Corinne Gunkle, William Hayes and Dorothy Mohr voting in favor of it. Quigley voted against it. Jeff Dimmig was absent.
Christman's appointment as substitute superintendent comes after board earlier this month accepted the retirement of superintendent Joseph Liberati in March 2012.