Bethlehem teachers open up contract negotiations

The president of BCTA, David Rounds, said the school approached the teachers about opening up the contracts.

"The board of education approached the union and the union agreed to discuss possible changes to the current contract," said Rounds. "The BCTA teachers association agreed to discuss possible changes to the final year of our current contract to try to see if there were ways to save the district money next year, while at the same time maintaining the integrity of the teachers contract."

According to the BCTA Constitution, Rounds said two-thirds of the membership would have to approve the changes before they could go into effect and change an existing contract.

With 465 employees covered by the teacher's contract, the district's budget increases each year by hundreds of thousands of dollars just to cover the pay raises. There are two other union contracts with the district: the Bethlehem Central United Employees (BCUE) Association and Bethlehem Principals Association (BPA).

The BCUE covers 509 employees, such as maintenance workers and other essential staff and the BPA covers the district's 16 principals and administrators who typically collect the highest salaries.

One resident at the Monday, Feb. 9, public budget hearing asked if the administrators union is also in talks about renegotiating its contract.

Tebbano said he wouldn't speculate on if the BPA would begin talks, saying, "The district can only negotiate with one union at a time."

He added that the district would have to "wait and see" how the discussions went before it could move on to another contract.

Tebbano added that Bethlehem, as far as he knew, was the only school district re-opening a union contract and certainly the only district in the Suburban Council to do so.

Still, the district must not only cut back on spending, it needs to look for new revenue sources, according to the school's chief financial officer, Judi Kehoe. She told residents the current projects show a total increase of $5.2 million in expenditures if spending continued at its current level.

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