Tentative contract reached at Mars
October 23, 2012
ADAMS TWP — The Mars School District and the teachers union have reached a tentative two-year agreement. Neither side would divulge details of the contract because it had not been presented to the 200-member Mars Area Education Association. Both sides will vote on the contract on Nov. 5. The main sticking points in negotiations have been salary and benefits. The current starting salary for a teacher with a bachelor's degree at Mars is $37,532. The average salary is $55,445, and the highest paid teacher in the district, who has a master's degree and is at the top of the salary schedule, makes $72,712. Tom King, negotiator for the school district, said Tuesday that the two sides negotiated for four hours Monday night before agreeing to the tentative document. “I am optimistic it will pass,” King said. Rob Case, president of the education association, said hard work by the union during the summer and in recent weeks resulted in the deal being made. “Right now, I think we've hammered out a fair deal for the teachers and the school district,” Case said. Negotiations have been ongoing since January. Teachers agreed to a one-year extension of their old contract for the 2011-12 school year because of the financial difficulty the state budget caused Mars and all other districts across the state. That contract, which effectively froze teachers' pay for one year, expired on June 30. It is not known if the tentative contract contains retroactive pay and salary scale step-ups for teachers. King said the teachers' recognition that the board continues to face hard financial times, in the form of agreeing to the yearlong pay freeze last year, helped the two sides come to an agreement. He said hard work during the summer also paid off in the tentative deal. Case said he is unsure how the teachers will vote on the contract because he has not yet seen it as a final product. He said the language will be important. “But no one wants to have discord in the relationship where there is the possibility of a work stoppage,” Case said. “The district, the community, and the teachers don't want it.” The teachers voted on Sept. 26 to authorize a strike, but no work stoppage ensued. Case thanked everyone for coming together in reaching the tentative deal, and said the teachers appreciate the Mars community's input as well as that of the students during the negotiations. “We really tried hard to do the best we can,” he said. Mars remains in contract negotiations with its support personnel union, which includes janitors, paraprofessionals, secretaries and guidance counselors.