By EMMALEE C. TORISK
Much like the contract recently approved for teachers in the Struthers City School District, the new, three-year contract for the school district’s classified employees includes an annual 1.95 percent raise and an additional 2 percent contribution, from 8 percent to 10 percent, toward their health benefits.
New hires covered under the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, like those covered under the Struthers Education Association, also will be subject to drug testing, according to the agreement that was ratified by the Struthers Board of Education during a special meeting Monday. The teachers’ contract was approved in early June.
In all, Joseph Nohra, superintendent of Struthers City Schools, called OAPSE’s new contract, along with the negotiations involving the union and the district that began in May, “very fair.”
“They recognized that we’re still in a time where we have to be frugal economically,” Nohra said.
He added that the district made sure the base salaries for the positions represented by OAPSE — such as bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, secretaries and teachers aides, who are all paid on different levels — were closely aligned with the averages in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
In the 2014-15 school year, for example, a beginning bus driver’s pay will be $12,836, then increase in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years to $13,087 and to $13,342, respectively. Top-scale pay will rise from $13,256, to $13,507, to $13,762, during those same three school years.
Likewise, a beginning cafeteria worker will earn $16,903 in the 2014-15 school year, and will see that amount increase to $17,233 in the 2015-16 school year and to $17,569 in the 2016-17 school year. Cafeteria workers on the top step will make $20,000, then $20,390 and $20,787.
A custodian on the lowest step will make $31,666, which will increase to $32,283, then to $32,913. Custodians on the top step will make $38,700, then $39,455 and $40,224.
In those same three years, a beginning secretary at either Struthers Middle School or Struthers High School will see pay rise from $31,039, to $31,644, to $32,261, while a secretary on the top scale will be paid $36,818, then $37,536 and finally $38,268.
A beginning teacher’s aide who works 61/2 hours per day for 188 days each school year will be paid $12,376, then $12,617 and $12,863. At the top step, those salaries will increase from $13,878, to $14,149, to $14,425.
Ron Blatt, OAPSE representative, noted that the new contract was “very well accepted by [the union’s] members,” and echoed Nohra’s words, saying the spirit of negotiations was “frank and fair.” He said, too, that members were receptive to the new drug-testing policy.
“We want to make sure that our kids are safe, and that the right people are there taking care of them,” Blatt said. “We may not do the teaching, but we are the ones who feed them, keep the schools clean, watch out for them while they are there. They are our kids.”
Blatt added that union members overwhelmingly feel the district is “going in the right direction.”