Philly principals hear contract pitch that includes major salary reductions

    In the Philadelphia School District, Friday might be an especially bad day to be called to the principal’s office.

    Thursday night, the union representing district principals and other school administrators heard the details of a tentative deal struck between union leadership and the district.

    If accepted, the deal would cut salaries by as much as 17 percent in addition to health-care concessions.

    The proposed three-year contract would take district administrators from a 12-month to 10-month pay schedule, and call for 5-to-8 percent health care contributions for all members, staggered over the life of the deal.

    To this point, CASA members have not been required to make health care contributions.

    Robert McGrogan, leader of the administrators union, CASA, spent close to two hours presenting the plan to his members.

    “It was a very difficult evening,” he said. “Their annual salary is being reduced by an extraordinary amount.”

    All employees would effectively take a 20-percent pay cut – 3 to 5 percent of that could be made up by working on summer reorganization in August.

    In an breakdown provided to CASA members, union leadership illustrated how an assistant principal currently earning $106,287 per year would see salary reduced to $88,570.

    McGrogan reiterated that this is the best deal the district is willing to broker. If union members reject it, he believes the School Reform Commission will impose contract terms on CASA that would be even more unfavorable.

    “I believe that in the absence of accepting this agreement, that the district will move forward to implement whatever changes it feels fit to achieve the savings that are necessary moving into the next fiscal year.”

    Bill Green, the newly sworn-in School Reform Commission chairman, has repeatedly said the SRC should use this power to impose terms if agreements can’t be reached.

    If, hypothetically, CASA members reject this deal, and then the district imposes a contract, McGrogan didn’t rule out the possibility of a lawsuit – which would go straight to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

    He said that scenario, in the end, would result in a worse outcome for his members.

    “A negotiated settlement is better than … any arbitrator’s ruling,” he said in an interview earlier in the week. “We’re not going to be able to arrive at a better agreement than we have at this time.”

    CASA’s contract expired on Aug. 31.

    The Philadelphia School District has been seeking $133 million in savings from its five labor unions. It’s been seeking $103 million from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, by far its largest labor partner. (The PFT contract also expired Aug. 31)

    If the teachers’ union inks a more favorable deal on health care, CASA has the right to exercise a “me, too” provision.

    The new normal: doing more for less

    Most administrators leaving the meeting Thursday night declined to comment for this story. In off the record conversations, some fumed with anger and frustration, others seemed wearily resigned to changes they felt were inevitable.

    Tracy Scott, principal of Duckrey Elementary School, fell into the latter group, though she wouldn’t commit on how she would vote.

    “It’s the devil you know, as opposed to what you don’t know,” she said. “Me as a single person, it’s not bad, but for people who are parents and have kids and things like that, it might be hard for them to make an adjustment in the middle of the year.”

    If the union accepts the deal, salary reductions and health-care concessions would take effect beginning the next pay cycle.

    The prospect of earning less pay after a year of working harder than ever boggles Scott’s mind.

    “We have 50 more jobs on our table now,” she said, “and they’re asking us to do more with less – more work with less days to do the work.”

    Judy Haughton teaches at High School of the Future. As a laid off assistant principal, she was allowed to attend the meeting, but cannot cast a ballot.

    “The truth is we don’t know what could be imposed on us,” she said. “At least at this point there seems to be some say from the union.”

    When interviewed earlier in the week, McGrogan said that his reasoning for presenting the deal this week would be evident once certain details were made public.

    On Thursday, he explained that rationale.

    The district wanted to make any salary and healthcare reductions retroactive to last Sept. 1. Just last week, the district agreed to make them retroactive to March 1 instead.

    The district had also been seeking six furlough days per year for CASA’s non-principal or assistant principal members. This proposed pact eliminates those furlough days.

    If McGrogan didn’t present this deal to CASA membership, the district would have put both provisions back on the table.

    The potential deal cannot be ratified without a majority of member approval.

    CASA members will vote on the proposed contract changes by mail. They must arrange to have their ballots delivered by Monday, March 17. Additional meetings will be held Friday and Saturday for members unable to attend the Thursday presentation.

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