New Pact Approved By Board

Posted: September 29, 1988

Despite protests from a handful of residents, the Cheltenham school board ratified a new contract that will give teachers average salary increases of 35 percent over four years.

During a special meeting Tuesday night, the board's 6-2 vote was the final chapter in the 11-day strike by the Cheltenham Educators' Association. The contract went into effect when it was signed Tuesday night. Last Thursday, members of the CEA voted, 225-38, to ratify the contract.

"This is a fair contract that is beneficial to both the school district and the teachers," said Lois Kligerman, who headed the board's negotiating team.

Board members Kligerman, James M. Bell, Gladys Gassel, Charlotte Moskowitz, Neil Sklaroff and Hyung W. Pak voted for the contract. Myron Goldman and James Pastore voted against it. Philip Johnson abstained because his wife is a teacher in the district.

Many in the crowd of 70 people, mostly teachers and parents, applauded once the contract was approved.

During the 1988-89 school year, the first year of the contract, starting teachers will receive a salary of $19,500. Top salary for a teacher with a master's degree plus 36 credits and 12 years' experience will be $47,100. During the 1989-1990 school year, salaries will range from $22,000 to $50,500.

During the 1990-1991 school year, salaries will increase to a minimum of $25,000 and a maximum of $54,300.

In the final year of the contract, the 1991-1992 school year, salaries will range from $27,500 to $59,500.

The top scale for teachers during the 1987-88 school year was $44,768.

In addition to salary raises, the contract calls for a longer work day for teachers at Cheltenham High School and Cedarbrook Middle School, said Ronald Carroll-Ranieri, president of the CEA. Elementary teachers will no longer be responsible for recess duty except in emergencies, he said.

Carroll-Ranieri, a special education teacher at Cheltenham High School, said he was glad the ordeal was over.

"Now it is time to get on with the business of education," he said after the meeting.

A tentative agreement between the CEA and the school board was reached Sept. 15, ending the first strike in the district's 104-year history. It caused the district's 3,900 students to miss five days of class.

During the 2 1/2-hour meeting, the school board heard comments from several senior citizens who asked the board to reject the contract because it would raise taxes.

"I am willing to pay my share for the teachers as long as it is a fair amount," said Marion Woods, one of six township residents who spoke in opposition to the contract. "You have negotiated an intolerable contract without consideration for the older settlers of the township. The contract will negotiate people out of their homes."

Board members Pastore and Goldman opposed the contract because they thought the salary increases were exorbitant.

Goldman said the contract is "well beyond what is reasonable."

"I think we are on a collision course with the economy," Pastore said during the meeting. "This school system is in economic trouble. This contract is much, much, much more than fair. The school board and the students were held hostage."

Carroll-Ranieri said the students were not held hostage.

"We were put in a situation . . . where we had no choice but to reject the board's take-it-or-leave-it offer," Carroll-Ranieri said.

According to projections done by Goldman, vice president of the school board, the salary increases will raise taxes by about 20 mills per year for the next three years.

Cheltenham has the highest school tax rate in Montgomery County, 207.79

mills. One mill is $1 per $1,000 in assessed property value. It is the first school district in the county to top 200 mills. Based on an average home assessment of $8,500, homowners pay $1,756 in taxes.

The students will make up the five missed classes during the school year.

At the meeting Tuesday night, the board announced that classes will be held Dec. 23 and Feb. 17, two days that had been scheduled as holidays. The school year also will be extended by three days at the end of the year, from June 19 to June 22.

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