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BC, teachers in negotiations

Last deal included three years worth of concessions

— Representatives of the Bethlehem Central Teacher’s Association and the school district are renegotiating a contract agreement to replace the one set to expire in June. Both sides said the hope is to find savings for the district in the face of declining state aid, while neither was willing to discuss details of the negotiations.

Last year, the union agreed upon a partial pay freeze for the 2011-12 school year, with members not receiving their contractual raise for 70 percent of the year. That was in addition to changes negotiated in 2009, when it was agreed the existing 2006 contract would be extended until June 2012 with different concessions in each school year.

“Actually, for the last three years we have made contractual changes,” said BCTA President David Rounds. “People only talk about last year, but in all three cases we voted to make changes to save the district money.”

According to Rounds, the savings from last year’s concession saved almost $1.2 million, while deferrals and fringe benefit reductions from the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years saved the district an additional $1 million.

Rounds said that money was never paid back to teachers and that the only condition placed on the concessions “was that it be used to maintain programs for the students.”

“We wanted to try to maintain what the school district has always been able to offer the children of Bethlehem and that’s a quality education,” said Rounds. “At this point I would say … I know a lot of people criticize collective bargaining but I think it works well for Bethlehem Central. In the past several years we have been able to save the district money and once again communication with the district has been very positive and productive.”

Superintendent Tom Douglas agrees.

“There is not much I can say except (talks) are positive and ongoing…,” he said. “I truly believe everybody is trying to take into consideration the financial situation and everybody is trying to what they can, where they can.”

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