Teacher, Prijatelj contracts renewed

Uncertainty for teachers continues for next year

Recently, contracts were established and renewed at the high school. The teacher contract that was set into place offers various benefits to teachers.

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Recently, contracts were established and renewed at the high school. The teacher contract that was set into place offers various benefits to teachers. “I am pretty excited that men are no longer required to wear a tie every day,” union president and English teacher Douglas Rosenberry said.

On Tuesday, February 16, the school board approved and announced the new teacher contract while also extending superintendent Charles Prijatelj’s contract for three more years. 

“I was only one member of a team of teachers that worked tirelessly for more than a year to come to this agreement…considering the situation with the pandemic, the contract is a good compromise between our goals and the district’s,” union president and English teacher Douglas Rosenberry said.

The board voted 8-1 to approve the contract.

“[Having a contract feels] secure. They didn’t have a contract this entire school year, so it was nice to know that we were finally approved to have the benefits that we are supposed to have the whole school year,” art teacher Kathryn Curry said.

Included within the teacher contract is a step increase. Teachers have certain steps that represent the years they have worked at the school. The longer a teacher has worked, the higher the pay. For the contract, all teachers were moved up a step, meaning an increase in pay overall.

“[As] teachers, obviously, we always want to be paid more because we are are underpaid. The top of Altoona’s pay scale comparatively to other districts isn’t the highest,” Curry said.

Teachers worked without a contract until February.

“It’s still frustrating. The fact that it took so long…it made us feel really underappreciated especially during a global pandemic when all we hear all day long is how much teachers are appreciated,” English teacher Caitlin McGeary said.

Rosenberry had no comment on this matter. 

The teacher contract ends at the end of this school year; therefore, the contract itself acts more as a placeholder. The previous contract was in place for four years. The reason why this contract for teachers only extends for a few months is because the school board and teachers struggled to come to a decision.

With this recent contract now set in place, many teachers have different feelings regarding the components of the contract and what the upcoming contract will look like after this school year is over. 

“I’m a little nervous to see what the next contract is and to see if they realign the steps, to see if we’re going to be in a pay freeze…I’m just curious to see what the new one will be and if they can come to a decision when they are supposed to,” Curry said.

For Prijatelj, his appreciation for the amount of dedication teachers have put into this school year is something he hopes the contract reflects. 

“Our faculty and staff have worked extremely hard over the past year to get through this pandemic, I appreciate the support the board has shown to our faculty and staff for their efforts,” Prijatelj said.

Many teachers feel relieved to now be finally working with a contract.

“I feel very grateful to have a contract. I feel like it was a fair contract, and I’m very happy with the results,” math teacher Natalie Trimmer said.

Despite the amount of time needed to agree on a contract, Prijatelj believes that the agreement itself shows how important communication between teachers and administrators is.

“There are a lot of big changes in the agreement but the agreement shows a strong working relationship between the board and the faculty through these difficult times,” Prijatelj said. 

Factors of the new contract such as salary and healthcare are beneficial for the teachers.

“The fact that we are able to keep a good healthcare plan and the fact that we are able to move a step in our contract on our salary schedule [to me is the most important],” Trimmer said. 

For Prijatelj, his contract was just renewed, giving him another three years with the district. 

“I am proud and honored to lead the district for another three years. This action by the board will give continuity to our educational focus and programming,” Prijatelj said.

Within these three years, Prijatelj seeks to accomplish many goals he has set forth for the high school. 

“We have started several large programs that I would like to see through to the point that they are firmly established in the curricula, e.g. Robotics, Bio-Medical Technology, Entrepreneurship (InventionLand), Reading Workshop, STEM and STEAM initiatives district wide,” Prijatelj said.