07 Sep 2012 — Bucks County Courier Times By Christian Menno/Staff writer
The Neshaminy school board delivered an offer that it described as "game changing" to the district's teachers union during Thursday's negotiation session. School board negotiators suggested using the contract recently agreed to by the teachers union and school board in the Council Rock School District as a framework for resolving the impasse, which stretched into its fifth academic year Wednesday. Board President Ritchie Webb said the offer is "by far" the best possible deal the district could give to the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers. He added that he hopes union leaders will consider it carefully because if it is not accepted, the offer will be pulled from the table and the parties will "go back to square one." "Council Rock is similar in size and economic scope to Neshaminy," Webb said, "but Council Rock has consistently outperformed our district in key measures of success such as PSSA scores. We believe that offering a parity contract with a district that has superior results show our desires to invest in our teachers. But with commitment comes the expectation that our certified staff will join with administration in eliminating the stigma of status quo that has plagued our district. There is no room for complacency if we are going to return Neshaminy to academic excellence." The board had previously offered to use the new teachers contract signed in the Souderton School District, but NFT leaders did not accept. The Council Rock deal was approved by the school board in June. It calls for monthly health care premium contributions from teachers escalating from 11 percent in the first year to 16 percent by the last year of the three-year pact. Neshaminy teachers have been working under the terms of the previous contract since 2008, which called for no health care contributions. Teachers have had their salaries frozen since that time and have received no salary step increases, which are based on service time and additional education credits. Council Rock teachers agreed to a salary freeze in the first year of the deal and a half-percent salary bump in the final year. A statement from the NFT Thursday did not mention the board's suggestion specifically, but it did say that "a variety of potential strategies for reaching the goal of securing a settlement were discussed." William Gross, director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Mediation, met with both parties in separate rooms. Gross is participating in the talks at the request of Bucks County Judge Robert Baldi. According to the union's statement, Gross "thoroughly reviewed both parties' differing perspectives on the history of the protracted negotiations and the myriad issues underlying the dispute..." "The Federation emphasized its willingness to consider any new approach that the mediator may propose," the statement said. The two sides next meet Wednesday.
"Board floats new offer" Bucks County Courier Times 07 Sep 2012: A1