Blogs > SASD Strike News

Your source for news, links, photos, videos and commentary from the Souderton Area School District labor negotiations.

Friday, March 26, 2010

This blog has moved

This blog is now located at
You will be automatically redirected in 30 seconds, or you may click here.

For feed subscribers, please update your feed subscriptions to

Saturday, April 25, 2009

It's all over!

FRANCONIA — The Souderton teachers union accepted the nonbinding arbitration report Friday, thus agreeing to a four-year contract and effectively removing the threat of another strike.

The news arrived on the heels of developments Thursday, when the Souderton Area School Board voted unanimously to accept the arbitration report.

CLICK HERE to see the arbitration report (PDF document)

Bill Lukridge, president of the Souderton Area Education Association, read a statement after a meeting Friday at Indian Crest Junior High School, where the teachers voted.

“The findings place Souderton closer in line with settlements in the surrounding area, so that we can be more attractive to the best and brightest teaching prospects and help stop the exodus of teachers leaving the district,” Lukridge said.

According to the agreement, teachers will receive gross salary increases at varying percentages per year, beginning with a 3.7 increase for the current 2008-09 school year.

The remaining salary schedule for the next three years reads as follows: 2009-10, 4.6 percent increase; 2010-11, 4.5 percent; and 2011-12, 4.3 percent.

During last year’s negotiations, the school district had offered teachers salary increases of 2.5 percent per year over three years. Lukridge said of that offer at the time that Souderton teachers would still be the lowest paid teachers in Montgomery County.

On Friday, he said, “The report recognizes that inequities in the current salary schedule needed to be fixed and that the teachers’ health insurance plan needed to be improved.” He said that since the union and the district aren’t in agreement with each recommendation in the report, “the final product is one of compromise.”

“We now have a contract,” Lukridge said.

Superintendent Charles Amuso and school board President Bernard Currie released a joint statement Friday right after the teachers meeting.

Regarding the health care insurance, Amuso said the arbitration panel “crafted a solution that reflects the dramatic increase in insurance premium costs, as well as reductions in benefits experienced by the taxpayers.”

According to Amuso, the panel recommended reducing the number of health care plans to two, and using a program similar to surrounding districts.

“The arbitrators required that teachers pay a slightly higher percentage of premiums each year, similar to what was sought by the board,” he said. “There will also be an increase in lifetime maximum to $3 million.”

“The annual net cost percentages are in line with the expectations of a majority of taxpayers in the district,” Currie said. “That has been the target for the board from the beginning.”

Currie said that he was saddened by “the damage to our children’s education this year.” In addition, he said he’s concerned “about the damage to the reputation of the teachers.”

“We have a corps of very dedicated, professional teachers, the envy of other districts,” he said.

Currie said he was precluded from addressing this issue during the negotiations due to Pennsylvania labor laws.

“But now I can tell you that we have great teachers, professionals that we value highly,” he said. “Sadly, they have been mislead, and perhaps bullied, by their negotiator and a few members of the union.”

He said the agreement “is just for all parties.”

Friday, April 24, 2009

School Board says yes to report

FRANCONIA — The school board said yes, and now it’s all up to the teachers.

By a unanimous 9-0 vote, the Souderton Area School Board voted Thursday night to accept the nonbinding arbitration report that could bring an end to the district’s nearly year-long contract dispute.

“We’re not going to ask for comment on tonight’s resolution, because the teachers’ union has yet to vote on this,” said school board President Bernie Currie.

The Thursday night vote could bring an end to the contract dispute that began last summer, when the contracts for the district’s teachers, secretaries and aides expired on June 30.

“As soon as we know how the other side has voted, and that all of the legal requirements have been fulfilled, more information (on the report’s content) will be available,” Currie said.

That vote is expected to come Friday afternoon, during a general membership meeting of the Souderton Area Education Association.

“The ball’s in their court now,” district solicitor Jeffrey Sultanik said Thursday.

Agreements were reached between the district and the aides and secretaries’ unions earlier this month, but Currie said Thursday those deals did not affect the vote on the arbitration report.

“They were pretty much separate issues; both of those contracts kind of stood on their own,” he said.

The secretaries and aides ultimately did not strike.

The district and teachers union agreed to enter a nonbinding arbitration process in September 2008, after a 15-day strike by the teachers.

At that time, the three person arbitration panel was named, consisting of one interest arbitrator on behalf of each side and one neutral arbitrator.

Although details of the report won’t be made public until after the teachers vote today, one resident applauded the board’s vote Thursday.

“I’d just like to thank the current school board for continuing to be steadfast, in keeping not only the interests of taxpayers, but the interests of children, the interests of teachers, the interests of everyone in the community in their hearts,” said Souderton resident Charl Wellener.

“They’ve been up against a multimillion dollar union who will continue to throw children out on the streets, and hold taxpayers hostage to get what they think is fair, so I’d like to thank the board. We don’t know what the number is yet, but I hope it’s something we can afford,” she said.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Arbitration report is in


Start the clocks — the nonbinding arbitration panel has submitted its report to the Souderton Area School Board and the district's Education Association.

"As of this moment, the district does have the confidential nonbinding arbitration award issued by the tripartite arbitration panel," district solicitor Jeffrey Sultanik said Friday afternoon.

Receiving the report means each side now has 10 days to vote on whether or not to accept the report, which presents the findings of the three-person panel established in September 2008.

"Under Pennsylvania law, the report is confidential until both parties vote on the report. The school board will be voting on the report at its meeting next Thursday, its regularly scheduled school board meeting Thursday night," Sultanik said.

That meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the district offices, located at 760 Lower Road in Franconia Township.

SAEA President Bill Lukridge said Friday that the teachers had not yet received the report, but have scheduled a membership meeting for Friday, April 24, to vote on whether to accept.

"We'll all have to take a look at this report and see what's happening. When we get a hold of this thing, we'll take a look, and then see what happens," Lukridge said.

Once both parties receive the report, they'll have to vote within no less than five but no more than 10 days on whether or not to accept the panel's recommendations; after those votes, the content of the report may be made public.

"There will be an official publication of the report, that will be issued once the 10-day period is up; the first 10-day period," Sultanik said.

"For example, if the school board votes next Thursday, and the union votes Friday, the report could be released as soon as Saturday," he said.

The process could bring to an end the contract dispute that began last summer, when the contracts for the district's teachers, secretaries and aides expired on June 30.

Agreements were reached between the district and the aides and secretaries' unions earlier this month; the district and teachers union agreed to enter a nonbinding arbitration process in September 2008, after a 15-day strike by the teachers.

The secretaries and aides did not strike.

Now, if both parties vote within the next 10 days to accept the arbitration panel's report, the teachers and district will have a binding contract of their own, Sultanik said.

"If one party rejects the report, the party rejecting would need to vote again within 10 days; if, let's say, the board votes yes and the teachers vote no, the board would not have to vote again," he said.

The district's negotiating team will meet to review the report Monday morning, and the entire school board will discuss it Tuesday in an executive session, Sultanik said.

On Thursday, the school board will give official notification that the executive session was held, according to Sultanik.

The teachers, meanwhile, will vote Friday afternoon after a general membership meeting, and Lukridge said he expects what he called the "Sultanik propaganda machine" to release details of the report soon after.

"Our membership meeting won't be open to the public," Lukridge said, "but all of what's in that report is going to come out anyway."

Meanwhile, contract talks in the North Penn School District are still in progress to update the teachers contract that expires Aug. 30, and the district and North Penn Education Association will be meeting again next week, said Mike Frist, North Penn's director of Business Administration.

"We're still just very early on in the process, and so far everything's quiet, knock on wood," Frist said.

Alan Malachowski, head of the North Penn Education Association, said an "early bird" discussion process last fall helped set a positive tone for the negotiations between NPEA and NPSD.

"We felt that really produced a good dialogue. We had some good discussions, and we felt that really opened the door to talk, and both sides agreed to keep talking," Malachowski said.

The NPEA's initial proposal was made at the two sides' last meeting, he said, and he hopes the district will counter with a proposal next week.

"The talks have been very amicable so far, and we certainly look forward for that to continue; there is definitely a desire to keep talking," he said.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Aides, secretaries reach agreement

Photo by Geoff Patton

By Tony Di Domizio, staff Writer

FRANCONIA — In 15 minutes, and with no public comment in a packed-full room Tuesday evening, the Souderton Area School Board rejected the fact finding recommendations for both the secretaries’ and teacher’s aides unions.

Instead, the board voted unanimously to authorize a tentative agreement approving the fact finding report for the Souderton Area Secretaries’ Association, with exceptions.

The board also voted 8-1 to authorize a tentative agreement approving the fact finding report for the Souderton Area Educational Support Personnel Association, with exceptions.

Board member R. Bud Miller abstained from the vote due to his wife’s role as a part-time teacher’s aide.

Solicitor Jeffrey Sultanik was absent from the meeting.

There were no copies of the fact finding report available to the public, and the members of the secretaries’ union did not receive copies of the report until two hours prior to the meeting.

Donna Mountney, head of the secretaries’ union, said the majority of the 48 members of the union voted to approve the fact finder report prior to the public meeting.

“The membership voted tonight and the membership got it (the report) today,” she said. “We are pret

ty much at an agreement.”

Mountney would not confirm that the agreement is a two-year contract. She said the union has “pretty much agreed upon” the language in the report.

“All in all, we have reached an agreement,” she said.

It is unknown if the teacher’s aides union voted on the agreement.

Under state law, both parties have until April 9 to inform the school board of its acceptance or rejection of the report.

The board met in an executive session for 15 minutes prior to the 6 p.m. meeting Tuesday to discuss the report. The board also met in an executive session to discuss the report for 70 minutes on April 1.

Dr. Charles Amuso, superintendent for the district, said Tuesday night that the board received a fact finding report for each union on March 30 from a fact finder who heard a discussion about the two negotiating processes.

Under state law, the board and the unions have until April 9 to accept or reject the report.

The board and administration reviewed the report and the administration recommended the board reject the fact finding recommendation for the secretaries’ association, and authorize a tentative agreement approving the fact finding report with the following exception: “Class II and IV non-grandfathered employees and Class IV — ‘me, too’ provision tied to the Souderton Educational Support Personnel Association Contract.”

Another exception struck “more than” from the fact finder recommendation: “In addition, those ten-month bargaining unit employees who work more than seven or more hours per day shall be entitled to participate in the lowest cost teachers’ health care plan for single employee benefits provided that they contribute 10 percent of the health care premium effective July 1, 2009.”

The board recommended to reject the fact finding recommendation for the Souderton Educational Support Personnel Association and authorize a tentative agreement approving the fact finding report with the following exception, which struck “more than” from the language: “Those Bargaining Unit Employees who work more than seven or more hours per day and at least 170 days per school year shall be entitled to participate in the lowest cost teachers’ health care plan for single employee benefits provided that the employees contribute 10 percent of health care premium effective July 1, 2009.”

Both tentative agreements are in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement draft that will be subject to final wording adjustments as recommended by the administration and solicitor.

Amuso said the fact finder’s recommendation was rejected because it cannot be changed if something isn’t agreed upon.

“The fact finding report is what it is,” he said. “It can’t be changed. You can’t partially accept a report.”

He said in this case, the board rejected the report and authorized an agreement with the union.

“We will try to reach a settlement as a result,” Amuso said.

Board president Bernard Currie was mum on the report and the decision of the board. At the beginning of the meeting, Currie referred to the Tuesday night special meeting as a “special occasion.”

“The board voted to authorize a tentative agreement, and I can’t discuss it because the other parties have not voted. Give us 24 to 48 hours.”

The unions still had to officially notify the school board of their votes.

Currie said health care was reflected in the report, and that some union members had the same health care benefits as others and some did not.

“Health care was in the report and it is stated differently, and is not exactly what we really want to happen,” he said. “I’m really not at liberty to discuss details. It’s not fair to the other parties who will read it in the newspaper or hear it on the radio and then go to a meeting.”

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Popular Sound Off

The Sound off item, "Time for teachers to pay" has resulted in many responses. CLICK HERE to see the item and the nearly 50 responses.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Senior citizen prom canceled

The popular annual senior citizen prom, which is staged annually by students and staff at Indian Crest Junior High School, was canceled due to the ongoing SASD contract situation. To read this story, CLICK HERE.