PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Punxsutawney Area School Board approved a new contract with the Punxsutawney Area Education Association (PAEA) and a new five-year pact with Superintendent Dr. Keith Wolfe at Tuesday's board meeting.
The contract with PAEA was approved in a 6-3 vote with Gary Conrad, board president; Lesa Conner, Bob Pascuzzo, Penny Pifer, Melissa Snyder and Roberta Dinsmore, board members, voting yes.
Francis Molinaro, board vice president; and Jack White and Jim Baun, board members, voted no.
Baun said the reason he voted against the pact was because the contribution by the association toward the members’ health insurance premiums had been agreed at a higher amount, and it was dropped lower on the final contract, which he did not agree with.
Molinaro said the reason he voted against the pact was because he thought the pay raises could have been more fair across the board for all of the teachers.
"Back on April 13, 2011, before the old contract expired, I said that I didn't feel the lump sum of money should be given to the union for distribution," Molinaro said, adding that some teachers get $600 and others get $6,000.
"I feel this creates hard feelings within the staff membership," he said. "If we control the distribution and everyone gets $1,200 for each of the three years, at least the raise would be uniform across the board, as everyone would receive the same raise."
He said that he didn't feel that the board needed to rush into the contract, the deadline of which expired on June 24, 2011.
'"We can continue to work as long as it takes and as long as there is a spirit of cooperation on both sides," Molinaro said.
He said that on Jan. 25, 2012, the board had been involved in the teacher negotiations for approximately 13 months.
"We agreed to all requests presented by the union and have received no concessions in return," Molinaro said.
"The only thing we were asking for was the random drug testing, and as you all know, they will not agree to this one item," he said.
Molinaro said that was why he proposed another option: Teachers will be required to pay a specific amount toward their hospitalization coverage each month if they choose not to participate in the random drug testing.
Molinaro went on to give details of his proposal.
"If the teacher would choose to participate in the random drug testing program, they would pay nothing toward their hospitalization coverage," Molinaro said, adding that he proposed an alternative which would have each employee contribute to the health care proposal, which was also rejected.
"These are the reasons why I voted against the contract," Molinaro said.
White said he voted against the agreement because he didn't agree with how the steps of the contract were set up and with the amount of the raise increases.
Conrad explained why he supported the contract:
"Although I don't believe this is the perfect agreement, I believe it is in the best interest of the school district and the Punxsutawney community to ratify this agreement," Conrad said.
None of the other board members commented on the contract.
The contract is retroactive to the 2011-12 school year and will run through the 2015-16 school year.
The old contract, which was approved in June of 2007, and was retroactive to July 1, 2004, expired June 30, 2011.
The PAEA has not yet voted on this proposed contract.
Conrad said that once the contract is approved, the board and Don Gill, president of the PAEA, will discuss some of the contract specifics.
The board also approved a new agreement with Wolfe as the district's superintendent.
The board voted 8-1 to approve Wolfe's pact, with Pascuzzo voting no.
Conrad said there was never any doubt as to retaining Dr. Wolfe as the superintendent of the Punxsutawney Area School District.
He said he'll receive a salary of $125,000 annually for a five-year contract that will run July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2018.
"He has showed commitment to the district. We have given him this contract in good faith," Conrad said.
"He has been here three years, and this salary will put him in line with other area superintendents," Conrad said.
He said the five-year agreement is the maximum that the board is permitted to offer by law.
"We have great faith in him, and he has a high style of morals and work ethic, and we wish him good luck during this next five-year period," Conrad said.
Wolfe said he is very excited to have a five-year contract extension.
"It gives me a little more stability for me and my family, but I also think it's good for the district," Wolfe said, adding that he doesn't believe that constant turnover would be good for the Punxsutawney Area School District.
"I received an affirmative vote from the board, and I'm hoping that they'll continue to be pleased with what I'm doing," he said.
Wolfe said he feels he has a good working relationship with the faculty, staff and the students.