Tuesday night's Harrisburg Education Association local teachers union deal will cut pay five percent and doubles insurance premiums.
Camp Curtin teachers focused on getting ready for the new school year on Wednesday afternoon. Many admitted they were distracted knowing this school year will be tougher on their personal pockets.
"Teachers are now kind of picking up for bad decisions made in the past," said Debbra Bolsnich. "To have it come out of your paycheck kinda hurts a little bit...obviously without it...the school district won't be here."
Bolsnich said the mood among teachers was a sense of "shared pain." On Tuesday night the local teachers union voted 303 to 85 to accept a new contract that cuts teacher pay 5 percent and raises insurance costs from 5 to 10 percent.
The new deal is the first under the district's newly adopted Act 141 Distressed Schools Recovery Plan and Chief Recovery Officer Gene Veno.
"Nobody wanted to see a pay cut," said Veno. "Nobody wanted to see a pay cut."
As CRO Veno said it "pained" him to even ask teachers to decrease their hard earnings, but he felt it was necessary for the recovery process.
"The district needed to do this, and we had to do this," he said. "Not only for educators and for administrators and for all non-employees…we had to do it for the community that we mean business about getting this district back in business."
For about 30 teachers, however, that business was too much. HEA President Sherri Magnuson said many have left once they got wind of the details in the deal.
"We've had some teachers that have had to make some personal decisions, and they had to decide what's best for them and their families," she said.
For the teachers that decided to stay explain they are committed to their school families, their students.
"We're trying to stay together because I think that's going to make a difference," said teacher Rya Smigl.
Despite the pay cuts, Veno hoped the deal would give teachers stability, therefore boosting morale. He promised many times that teachers would not see furloughs or another closed school building – he held true to his promise.
"It's all about building morale for the teachers," said Veno. "I thank them for stepping up. This was a major accomplishment on their part."
Veno said the teachers who either retired or moved on for other employment must give 60 days notice. He believes this would give the district ample time to hire replacement teachers. He added there is a stack of qualified candidates.
He said with the cuts and higher insurance costs, this would save the district nearly $65 million over his five-year plan. The teachers' deal is a one-year deal that will be voted on again next year.
Magnuson said since with this cut, the district can now begin the healing process.
"We believe in the school district of Harrisburg and we believe in this community," she said. "And we're trying to do everything possible to get everything back on track here."
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