Philly school principals OK contract worth $25M

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Philadelphia School District administrators Thursday night overwhelmingly approved a new, five-year contract that will give them pay raises and bonuses and restore principals to become 12-month employees.

Ninety percent of the voting membership of Teamsters Local 502, Commonwealth Association of School Administrators, approved the deal, union president Robin Pleshette Cooper said after tallies were final. The deal, which runs through Aug. 31, 2021, will cost the school district $25.6 million. Officials said they had budgeted for that amount in the school system’s five-year plan.

“I believe it’s the best offer that we could have received to get us on the road to recovery,” Cooper said.

All employees — the union represents a range of administrative employees, from building principals to food service managers — will receive raises that total 2 percent over the life of the contract, plus bonuses and “step” increases, which give members pay for years of experience.

A deal roundly rejected last year would have given CASA members raises totaling 1.5 percent over the contract, Cooper said.

When the district was in the midst of financial turmoil, principals had agreed to become 10-month employees — effectively taking a salary cut — to save the district money. That agreement, in 2014, saved the district $20 million at a time when it was not clear whether there was enough cash to open schools on time.

The new contract returns principals to working year-round. Assistant principals, however, remain 10-month employees — CASA had wanted all building administrators to become 12-month employees.

Most workers represented by CASA will continue paying 8 percent of their salary toward the cost of their health insurance, though employees earning less than $60,000 will pay 5 percent of their salary for the benefits.

A year ago, CASA members rejected a contract that many said did not go far enough to recognize the sacrifices the union’s 600-plus members made when the school system weathered a financial crisis.

“I think this contract has a lot more in the way of respecting administrators,” said Cooper, who was elected to become CASA president in part because of dissatisfaction over the last contract proposal. She said the contract contains language that helps members with work conditions, due process for disciplinary actions, and principal evaluations.

“Those things are equally important as the money piece,” Cooper said.

Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said in a statement that he was “proud” of the contract and of CASA members. The deal, he said, “recognizes the tremendous contributions they make.”

The deal comes days before teachers report to work for a new school year, and just over a week before students report to classrooms.

“With this contract in hand, we can move forward and fully focus on the work ahead: making every school successful for our students,” Hite said.

Negotiations broke off during the shift in CASA leadership, and resumed after Cooper’s installation, in January. They accelerated after the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, the district’s largest union, inked a deal in June.

Cooper characterized them as “intense.” The two sides, she said, were ironing out details until voting began.

Still, she said, “we do feel like the district recognized that we are full partners in this process.”

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