Poland school board and teachers agree on a new labor contract


By Jordyn Grzelewski

jgrzelewski@vindy.com

POLAND

After months of negotiation, the school board has reached an agreement with the teachers union on a new contract.

Already ratified by the Poland Education Association, the new agreement was approved by the board at a meeting Monday night. The contract is retroactive to Sept. 1 and runs through Aug. 31, 2018.

The agreement gives teachers a 1 percent raise each year of the contract. It also stipulates that teachers contribute 10 percent of all health care costs the first year, and 10.5 percent the second year.

The agreement, which will soon be finalized with sign-offs from both entities, passed with a 4-1 vote, with board member Robert Shovlin casting the sole “no” vote – saying he believes the contract gives too much at a time when the school district is facing financial difficulties.

“We’re already spending more than we’re bringing in,” he told The Vindicator. He pointed out that the district’s most recent five-year financial forecast, reported to the board last month, shows the district spending nearly half a million more dollars than it will collect this fiscal year.

Shovlin believes that teachers should contribute a greater share of their hospitalization costs, and thinks that their step increases are adequate raises, he said.

Under the terms of their previous three-year contract, teachers got a 0.5 percent raise for half of the first year; a 0.75 percent raise the second year; and a 0.5 percent raise the final year, bringing them to a collective 3.5 percent raise over the last five years. Prior to that, teachers were working under a salary freeze for two years, Superintendent David Janofa said.

Per the final year of the previous contract, teachers with a bachelor’s degree could have made between $34,603 and $68,860; master’s, between $38,775 and $75,089; doctorate, $42,908 to $77,165.

Janofa’s own contract also was a topic of discussion at the meeting, as it has been several times over the last few months. Earlier this year, the school board approved a new five-year contract with Janofa that granted him a 10 percent raise to start (bringing his annual salary to $114,000), and included 2.5 percent raises each year of the contract. Janofa made $104,000 each of the previous three years he’s been superintendent.

Members of the public have raised concerns about the new contract at several public sessions.

Sam Landry told the board Monday that he thinks Janofa’s compensation is “out of touch,” especially given the financial difficulties the district is experiencing.

Board member Dr. Larry Dinopoulos defended the contract, stating that Janofa has not only done his job well and saved the district money by implementing a plan that reduces the number of school buildings in operation, but also works up to 600 additional hours each year over what he’s compensated for in his contract.

“I understand where you’re coming from,” Dinopoulos said. “I just wish we could put this behind us. He’s a great guy. All five of us, who come from different walks of life, agree” he’s doing a good job, Dinopoulos said.

The public comment portion of the meeting at times grew heated, with a handful of community members going back and forth with board members about Janofa’s contract, the district’s finances, and other issues.

Stephanie Hann told the board that she has dozens of community members contacting her with questions and concerns about the schools, but who feel they can’t express their concerns to school board members themselves.

Board president Richard “Beau” Weaver hit back at that, urging her: “Have those people call us.”

In other business, the board unanimously hired Janet Muntean as district treasurer, effective Jan. 1, 2017, through July 31, 2019. Muntean will work at a salary rate of $39,700 for the rest of this school year. She will make $70,000 next school year, and $72,500 the final year of the contract.

Muntean previously worked for 27 years at Crestview schools, where she served as assistant treasurer.

Also, the board accepted the retirement, effective Jan. 31, of longtime McKinley Elementary Principal Ed Kempers.

“There’s no more caring individual that I know of,” said Janofa, of Kempers. “We are truly going to miss him.”

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