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Easton Area School Board OKs merit pay contract

Published On: Nov 19 2013 10:20:41 PM CST
Easton Area School District
EASTON, Pa. -

The Easton Area School Board voted 5-3 on Tuesday night to approve a three-year agreement with the district's Act 93 employees. The vote was 5-3 with directors Robert Moskaitis, Janet Matthews and Pat Vulcano, Jr. dissenting.

The district's Act 93 employees include central administrators, principals, assistant principals, school police, the head custodian and administrative secretaries. The agreement indicates that compensation increases will be based upon review by the individual's supervisor and that salary increases will be distributed on a 400 point system. This is a fancy way of saying salary increases will be based on an employee's merit in the opinion of their boss. The document also provides guidelines for starting salaries and a three-year salary target for each position, plus a salary range for each position from the lowest to highest.

For the 2013-2014 year, Act 93 employees will see either a 3.5 percent or 4 percent hike, depending upon the category in which they fall, a 3.5 percent hike during the 2014-2015 year, and either a 3 percent or 3.5 percent hike during the 2015-2016 years, depending upon their category, provided they were employed with the district on July 1st of this year, subject to their evaluation plan.

The highest starting salary in the district now belongs to the high school principal at $103,591 per year, followed by the directors of pupil services and special education who will make $101,927 as starting salaries.

"I think from a governing standpoint it is much healthier for the new board coming in to approve this because they are going to have to live with the consequences, financially, of this decision," said Moskaitis in explaining his vote against it. "I have always been against these 11th hour deals and I think perhaps the public gets the wrong impression."

That wasn't all that irked Moskaitis. "Even though we have made steps in the medical plan, those steps are still rather small compared to what the general public faces in medical plan costs," he added.

The deal did not excite Matthews either, who said that a bevy of documents were added to the agenda late, "most of them today." She noted that she personally "did not have time to read all of them" and added "this is sometimes how boards get into situations they can't get out of."

"I don't agree with any form of merit pay," said Director Pat Vulcano Jr. in an explanation of his "no" vote.

On the opposite side of the coin was Director Timothy Reilly who voted for the deal.

"This has been in the works for months," Reilly said in contrast to Matthews. "Just because it's on the docket now doesn't mean it hasn't been discussed for some time. In the long run it does provide us a savings and I think merit pay is a good idea. I think it is something we should bring eventually to the teacher side. I think if we don't do it now it's going to be harder to do it later."

"Change is good, this is good, this is exceptional," said Director William Rider. He added the evaluation of employees, which up to now had been more of an exercise, he said, will now receive much greater scrutiny.

Moskaitis, Matthews, Vulcano Jr., and Reilly were recognized at the meeting for their years of service in their respective swan songs. Besides receiving accolades and applause from the crowd on hand and their colleagues, they each received a handshake, or more accurately a paw shake from the distric't's mascot, the Red Rover, played by student Christopher Bugyi, who was in attendance to receive his own letter of commendation Tuesday night.