Strike over, Catholic schools back in action

Stu­dents at the Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia’s 17 high schools were back in classrooms on Tues­day, one day after teach­ers voted over­whelm­ingly to ac­cept terms of a new three-year con­tract.

Mem­bers of the As­so­ci­ation of Cath­ol­ic Teach­ers Loc­al 1776 voted 589-41, with one ab­sten­tion, to ac­cept a deal that was an­nounced early Sunday even­ing. The teach­ers had been walk­ing the pick­et line since Sept. 6. The key is­sues were work rules, rather than salary and be­ne­fits.

After the tent­at­ive con­tract agree­ment, uni­on pres­id­ent Rita Schwartz summoned her mem­bers to a Monday morn­ing meet­ing at Penn’s Land­ing Cater­ers. She called off the pick­et­ing for that day.

The pick­et signs were put away for at least three years, as the uni­on ac­cep­ted a deal that will give teach­ers an­nu­al raises of $1,300, $1,400 and $1,600. That amounts to an av­er­age in­crease of 8.3 per­cent over three years, a slight in­crease over the arch­diocese’s ini­tial of­fer.

A new teach­er with a bach­el­or’s de­gree will make $37,050 a year.

After the vote, teach­ers re­turned to school in the af­ter­noon for ori­ent­a­tion.

While the uni­on sug­ges­ted a me­di­at­or dur­ing ne­go­ti­ations, the arch­diocese feared that could have ul­ti­mately res­ul­ted in a loss of the schools’ re­li­gious iden­tity.

“We did not want to have an out­side per­son enter in­to our dis­cus­sions,” said Cath­ol­ic edu­ca­tion sec­ret­ary Richard Mc­Car­ron.

The agree­ment pre­ven­ted a planned Monday night protest by a new group called Cath­ol­ic Par­ents Re­spond, which was angered by a lack of pro­gress in ne­go­ti­ations. The group, which claimed 1,293 mem­bers, had planned to des­cend on arch­diocese headquar­ters for the rally.

Had the strike con­tin­ued, the par­ents group planned to with­hold tu­ition pay­ments un­til classes re­sumed.

“We are grate­ful that both sides ap­pear to have met some­where in the middle to re­solve their dif­fer­ences,” said Theresa Keel, founder of the group, adding that par­ents will con­tin­ue to mon­it­or is­sues such as po­ten­tial school clos­ings.

Theresa Ry­an-Szott, chief ne­go­ti­at­or for the arch­diocese, dis­missed the in­flu­ence of the group, say­ing its ac­tions “in no way at all” led to an agree­ment.

Schools were open for a week, with non-uni­on re­li­gious and ad­min­is­trat­ive staff mem­bers work­ing with the stu­dents. Five in­struc­tion­al days will need to be made up, and each school will choose the dates.

In a let­ter to par­ents, Mc­Car­ron and schools Su­per­in­tend­ent Mary Roch­ford out­lined the new con­tract items that were im­port­ant to the arch­diocese.

Among them is Grade­Con­nect, an on­line course man­age­ment sys­tem that will be util­ized by all teach­ers.

The arch­diocese is also pleased that the con­tract will in­clude struc­tured les­son plans for the 2012-13 school year; the use of part-time teach­ers for spe­cial­ized courses; the im­ple­ment­a­tion of Na­tion­al Edu­ca­tion Tech­no­logy Stand­ards for teach­ers; in­creased in­struc­tion­al time for stu­dents; in­creased pro­fes­sion­al de­vel­op­ment time for teach­ers; and a more de­tailed teach­er eval­u­ation sys­tem based on the na­tion­ally re­cog­nized Frame­work for Teach­ing doc­u­ment.

“We are try­ing to trans­form our schools,” Roch­ford said.

Ad­ded Ry­an-Szott: “We find that those are ex­cit­ing edu­ca­tion­al ini­ti­at­ives.”

The school year for teach­ers will in­crease from 187 to 190 days, but the arch­diocese nev­er fully fought for the right to re­place full-time teach­ers with part-timers.

The new deal also caps at 300 the num­ber of sick days teach­ers can ac­cu­mu­late over the years. Teach­ers are en­titled to 12 sick days and two per­son­al days per year.

Vet­er­an teach­ers, though, will not have to worry about los­ing their jobs should their schools close. The arch­diocese agreed to keep the “bump­ing” pro­vi­sion that gives those with seni­or­ity the abil­ity to move to an­oth­er school to re­place a less-seni­or col­league. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

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