Philly principals ratify contract deal that includes significant salary and health care concessions

    Members of the union representing Philadelphia School District principals have ratified a new three-year contract that includes significant salary and health care concessions.

    The three year deal will save the district $20 million over the life of the agreement.

    Of members who cast ballots, 83 percent voted to ratify.

    The new contract will take most district administrators from a 12 month to a 10 month schedule, cutting their base salaries by about 16 percent.

    Philadelphia principals used to start at $124,900 and top-out at $149,900; that will change to $97,000 to $124,900.

    Assistant principals used to start at $106,000 and top-out at $133,000.  Now it will range from $88,500 to $110,000.

    “We’re making extraordinary concessions and that’s difficult,” said Robert McGrogan, president of Commonwealth Association of School Administrators (CASA). “The decision basically was a responsible and selfless one from administrators that will help change the financial trajectory of the district.”

    CASA’s more than 450 member body includes principals, assistant principals and non-administrative positions such as school-police sergeants.

    All principals and assistant principals going from a 12 month schedule to a 10 month schedule will be eligible to work 15 days in August to make up some of their lost base salary. 

    Ten of these days will be for summer reorganization and five for professional development. In the contract that just expired, administrators were expected to work all 22 days in August, a month in which vacation was disallowed. This work time was covered by administrators’ year-round salaries. 

    Exactly how much an administrator can earn in August under the new contract will be determined by position. Principals on the top-end of the pay scale can make back $8,500 this year.

    In the second year of the deal, the district is only guaranteeing 13 days in August; in the third year, 10 days.

    Breaking it down for this year, principals and APs will see an average salary reduction of about 11 percent after taking August pay into account.

    As examples:

    A principal at the top end of the pay scale had been earning $149,900. The new deal sets their base pay at $124,900. Counting the $8,500 in August pay, the principal will in total earn $133,400.  This reduction of $16,500 represents a roughly 11 percent decrease in total earnings.

    An assistant principal on the bottom end of the pay scale had been earning $106,287. The new deal sets base pay at $88,570. The AP will be eligible to make an additional $6,150 by working 15 days in August, creating a total earnings of $94,720. This reduction of $11,567 also shows an 11 percent decrease in total earnings.

    Principals at the district’s internal-turnaround schools knows as Promise Academies will stay on a 12 month pay-schedule.

    The agreement freezes across-the-board salary increases over the life of the pact. However, eligible employees will receive a “half-step” pay bump on January 1, 2016, and another on August 31, 2016.

    Effectively, this gives eligible CASA members a 1.5 percent pay increase twice over the life of the deal.

    A joint District-CASA committee will develop a new performance-based compensation system to replace the existing one. CASA members must be rated “proficient” or “distinguished” in performance evaluations to be eligible for a raise.

    Administrators will also have to pay into their healthcare for the first time. Effective July 1, CASA members will begin paying a 7 percent share of their premiums. By the final year of the contract, they will pay in 8 percent.

    Under the terms of the agreement, depending on needs, CASA members could spend anywhere from $42 to $330 per month on health insurance.

    Members will no longer receive an “opt out” payment from the District if they decline medical benefits.

    Seniority also will no longer be the sole factor in decisions related to staff reductions.

    Most of the other terms of the contract will be applied retroactively to September 1st, 2013. The change from a 12-month to 10-month pay schedule will be made retroactive to March 1st, 2014 – a major sticking point in recent negotiations that McGrogan says saved money for his members and helped “build a financial bridge…study enough for us to walk across.”

    CASA members will see salary reductions in their next pay checks.

    Philadelphia School District superintendent William Hite praised the new contract.

    “Our principals have endured significant hardships this school year due to our financial challenges yet remained dedicated to students and families throughout the District,” said Hite, in an official statement. “This contract ratification is another example of their commitment to putting students’ needs first.”

    The $20 million in savings will begin to be realized this fiscal year, and will be applied to reducing the district’s projected budget deficit.

    District spokesman Fernando Gallard could not confirm exactly how much of that figure could be counted on this year or next, but said the money would help fund programs for early-childhood literacy, english-language-learner instruction, and credit recovery.

    McGrogan, who endorsed the deal and pitched it to his members a-week-and-a-half-ago, says it was the best offer the union could expect from the cash-strapped district.

    But that doesn’t mean he thinks its a fair deal.

    “You can say to me, ‘I don’t have to work in July’…but how about August 4th when I’m in school with my staff, I need to be ready for them, and in order to be ready for them, that means I’m working in July. I’m just not getting paid for it.”

    McGrogan says administrators will be developing student rosters, and scheduling staff essentially “free of charge.”

    School administrators will continue to work without a defined hourly day.

    McGrogan says the fact that previous budget cuts curtailed many summer-school programs made administrators “easy prey” for further cuts.

    Under a previous contract, district principals used to be 10 month employees. They became year-round employees under a contract ratified in 2010.

    That deal, brokered when Arlene Ackerman was superintendent, also included a 3 percent negotiated raise. That raise was delayed, and later the district refused to pay it. CASA took the issue to arbitration where the raise was finally awarded.

    If union members had rejected this deal, McGrogan believes the School Reform Commission would have imposed even more unfavorable contract terms on CASA.

    “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,” he said shortly after presenting the plan on March 6th.

    School Reform Commission chairman Bill Green has repeatedly said the SRC should use this power if agreements can’t be reached.

    The district has been seeking “around $103 million” from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, by far its largest labor partner. Those negotiations remain ongoing, as do those with the unions representing food service workers and school police officers.

    PFT president Jerry Jordan declined to comment for this story.

    The SRC will vote on the CASA deal at its next action meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 20, 2014.

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