NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. (ETY) – The following letter was submitted by Kristen M. Landers, President of the Redbank Valley Education Association:
The Redbank Valley Education Association (RVEA) has continued to work toward a fair contract settlement with the Redbank Valley School District School Board (the Board) for over two and a half years. We appreciate that the Board is working diligently to balance the budget so our students can continue to receive the best education we can provide. We also appreciate the support we have received and continue to receive from our amazing community.
We would like to take this opportunity to respond to the items that Dr. Shaffer addressed in the Letter to the Editor published last week. Before doing so, we feel it is necessary to share that there is a difference between an official proposal and a float proposal while negotiating. An official proposal is something that can be taken to the membership of your organization and voted upon during a ratification meeting. A float proposal is something that is discussed during negotiations but is not able to be voted upon. The following items are not part of the district’s current proposal to RVEA; they are floats, or discussions we have had during negotiation sessions. The last official proposal RVEA received from the Board is dated April 19, 2021, and expired May 31, 2021, as per their request.
We also feel it is necessary to let the public know that negotiating is to be done in a formal setting with both parties present. The parties can agree to meet with or without legal representation as well as with or without an assigned mediator. Negotiating is not to be done in the media. Even though RVEA would like to share our side of the negotiations with the community, we will not be doing so in the media. However, we do feel it is prudent to address some of Dr. Shaffer’s information.
The Board’s float of a two year pay freeze, a $2,000 bonus, and a 2% raise along with all of their changes to health care works out to be a loss of income for the majority of our staff. The freeze will be the fourth such freeze taken by many of our staff members over the course of their careers. Additionally, the 11 new co-pays and a reduction to the contribution to our health savings account (HSA) will result in a major financial burden for some of our staff. Many of the co-pays are for recurring treatments and will add up quickly. We have agreed to review the co-pays and accept some in order to help the school district reduce premium costs, but not all due to the negative impact on our staff members.
The wellness program addressed in Dr. Shaffer’s letter was actually a suggestion that RVEA made to the Board. We suggested a wellness program which would help catch medical conditions early on in their development resulting in simpler treatment, less utilization of insurance, and a cost savings to RVSD. RVEA also suggested that staff have the opportunity to receive a contribution to our HSA for not using sick days, thereby saving the district money in substitute expenses.
The RVEA is not opposed to additional professional development days as mentioned by Dr. Shaffer. However, we are concerned about possible ramifications should a staff member be unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts.
Lastly, Dr. Shaffer stated in his letter that the Board has increased the salary and bonus amounts from their initial proposals. This is not true. The Board has simply shifted numbers around in their float proposal to make it look that way. Their total dollar amount has not changed.
Your teachers do not wish to strike; however, we may need to do just that. In the spring, we chose not to strike in order to allow more time to reach a settlement. Our desire was to have a fair contract negotiated by the beginning of this coming school year. That has not happened. We do not wish to cause discomfort to anyone or to disrupt the education of our students. That being said, a strike is the only option we have left in order to move the process forward.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Kristen Landers and our negotiations team at [email protected] Also, we encourage you to contact the Board members to discuss your concerns. Their RVSD-provided email addresses can be found at www.redbankvalley.net.
Mrs. Kristen M. Landers, President
Redbank Valley Education Association
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