City school teachers point to disparity

By Denise Dick


City schoolteachers say they and the administration are supposed to be working together for the betterment of the district, but that isn’t happening.

About 70 teachers, many clad in bright yellow YEA (Youngstown Education Association) United T-shirts, showed up Tuesday outside the Ward Building where the school board meets. The teachers believed the meeting started at 6 p.m., but during the summer, the caucus session begins at 4:30 p.m. with the regular meeting immediately following.

“We’ve agreed to changes in the health-care plan and we’re willing to pay our fair share,” said Helen Matusick, labor-relations consultant with the Ohio Education Association.

Superintendent Connie Hathorn said another bargaining session between the board and union is set for Thursday. He said the district will be ready for the start of the school year Sept. 3.

Both sides have agreed not to discuss specifics of negotiations.

Matusick said the district has received more state money this year with even more expected next year.

Jan Pentz, a member of the executive board for the roughly 525-member YEA, pointed out that members of the administration received raises this year, some of them as high as 7 percent.

“If the district doesn’t have any money, how can they give 7 percent raises? Fourteen percent over two years?” she said.

Matusick also pointed to the amount the district pays its attorney — about $650,000 over 18 months, she said.

Teachers, whom Pence describes as the engine of a school district, agreed in past contracts to forgo raises to help the district as it struggled with financial difficulties. Health-care costs to teachers were kept low as part of those deals.

Because retirement takes into account an employees three highest years’ pay, by forgoing those raises, they lost out on retirement pay, Pentz added.

Beginning teachers earn $29,885, while senior teachers, or those with 24 years of service and a doctorate, earn about $66,000 annually. The average teacher salary is $53,355.

The last three-year contract provided 1 percent pay increases each year. That followed seven years of freezes on base pay.

“When I started in the district, this was the highest-paid district in the county,” Pentz said. “Fifteen years later, there’s only one district that’s less than us.”

For health insurance, teachers pay 1.225 percent of their salary for family or 0.65 percent of their salary for single coverage.

At the board session, treasurer James Reinhard said early estimates point to the district’s receiving $81 million from the state in fiscal year 2014 compared with fiscal year 2013, when it received $77 million. For fiscal year 2015, the district is on tap to receive $89 million from the state, but that amount could go down if the district loses students.

“A good portion of that is going to charter schools, open enrollment and for vouchers,” he said.

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