Contract Negotiations with KOEA

Contract Negotiations with KOEA

Contract Negotiations with Keystone Oaks Education Association

President of Keystone Oaks Board of School Directors addresses misinformation regarding negotiations with Keystone Oaks Education Association

Additional details and answers to frequently asked questions are available at the bottom of this page. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

MT. LEBANON, PA – Following several recent social media posts, news articles, and emails from community members containing inaccurate or misleading information, Keystone Oaks School Board President Theresa Lydon is providing the following clarifications:


Salary Proposal for the Keystone Oaks Education Association
The most recent contract offer from the Board of School Directors is for KOEA members to receive their annual pay increase on March 1, 2021. Typically, these individuals would have received their salary increase on September 1, 2020, meaning that the pay freeze is six months and not the entire school year. KOEA members would still move up one step on the salary scale, but the pay increase associated with that step would not take effect until March 1, 2021. 


“No KOEA member is being asked to give up a year of service or a step on the pay scale, which is equivalent of receiving a pay increase” Lydon said. 


“Nearly all other district employees agreed to a salary freeze for the duration of the 2020-2021 school year. And we know that many of our families have endured wage losses this year. We are simply asking that they are in line with what the rest of our community is experiencing,” she added. 


In April 2020, the Board offered KOEA a one-year extension on their current contract. That offer included full-year salary increases for all KOEA members. KOEA did not accept that offer. 


“We try to foster a culture at Keystone Oaks that we are all part of the same team. We recognize that while many in our community have lost their income over the past 11 months, the majority of our employees have not had those same worries because they have not received an interruption in pay at any point,” Lydon said. “Asking employees to accept wage freezes or to maintain a current contract was done generally out of concern for what we were seeing happen to our community,” she added. “It is in no way meant to be disrespectful or to be seen as not valuing our employees.” 


Keystone Oaks Fund Balance

Contrary to popular belief, the district does not have a $6 million pot of money hidden in a storage closet somewhere. About half of the District’s $5.85 million fund balance is earmarked for post-retirement benefits, such as employee pensions and vacation and sick day payouts. 


“Using these funds for any other purpose would be financially irresponsible and unfair to future retirees,” Lydon said. “Especially since KOEA seems to be sure that several of the 52 members at the top of the pay scale will be retiring within the next five years, we want to be sure that those funds are available for their intended purpose.” 


Federal Stimulus Dollars

Between the two stimulus packages that have been passed by the federal government, Keystone Oaks will receive approximately $2.1 million. However, this is non-recurring emergency aid that can only be used for a variety of programs and supports related to COVID-19 preparedness and response, as well as initiatives associated with measuring and remediating learning loss and for capital projects. 


“These federal funds are not to be used to balance a district’s budget or to pay for recurring expenses, like salaries and benefits,” Lydon said. “Also, these funds aren’t replacing money the district had already budgeted. They are supplementing our budget by allowing us to make improvements in other areas,” she added. 


Future Contract Negotiations

At this time, neither the Board of School Directors nor the Keystone Oaks Education Association has proposed a meeting to further negotiate the details of the contract. 

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Negotiations

Did Keystone Oaks administrators receive salary increases for the 2020-2021 school year? 
Five Keystone Oaks administrators received salary increases for the 2020-2021 school year: 
  • Three district administrators received a 1.25% salary increase on July 1, 2020 and, as members of the Act 93 agreement, have agreed to a salary freeze through December 31, 2021. This increase was half of a cost of living salary increase and, combined, the total for the three raises was $3,424.05. These three administrators  only received this increase because they are members of the Act 93 Administrators Association and did not receive a pay increase in January 2020 in line with the other members of the Act 93 agreement.

  • The Keystone Oaks High School Principal received a pay increase associated with a promotion to that position and will not receive a pay increase until at least January 2022.
      
  • The Director of Finance and Human Resources received a pay increase associated with a promotion to that position and will not receive a pay increase until at least January 2022.
 
Can you please explain the wage freeze for Keystone Oaks’ Act 93 administrators? 
Yes! 
 
Act 93 administrators are paid on a calendar year (January 1 – December 31) as opposed to a fiscal year (July 1 – June 30). This is because part of their evaluation is tied to assessment and performance data for the Keystone Oaks School District. For example, when students took the PSSA exams in April 2019, the district received those results in the summer of that same year. Those results and other data are the used by the superintendent to evaluate Act 93 administrators. These employees were evaluated by December 31, 2019 and, in January 2020, the Board of School Directors approved pay raises for those employees. Their salaries are effective through December 31, 2021. 
 
Since they received a pay increase in January 2020, these administrators agreed to a salary free for the following year – January 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021 – meaning that they will receive no increase in pay until at least January 2022. 
 
Did any other District administrators or employees accept pay freezes for the 2020-2021 school year?
Yes. Several administrators and employees accepted pay freezes for the 2020-2021 school year, including:
 
  • Keystone Oaks Superintendent Dr. Stropkaj voluntarily took a pay freeze for the 2020-2021 school year, which he announced at an April 2020 board meeting.
  • 33 additional employees also accepted pay freezes for the 2020-2021 school year, including:

    • Coordinator of Communications & Public Relations

    • Technology Integration Specialist

    • Systems Administrator

    • Two Confidential Administrative Assistants

    • Custodial Supervisor

    • First Shift Supervisor

    • Second Shift Supervisor

    • 26 custodial and maintenance staff members

 
What is the Act 93 Administrators Association and how does it work? 
The Act 93 Administrators Association is a group of district employees with administrative or supervisory functions. This group of employees is defined a little differently at every school district, but at Keystone Oaks includes:
  • Director of Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment and Staff Development
  • Director of Special Education
  • Director of Pupil Services
  • Director of Technology
  • Director of Buildings, Grounds and Transportation
  • Director of Food Service
  • Building Principals
 
These administrative and supervisory employees all have the same Act 93 Employment & Compensation, which outlines pay, benefits, evaluations, and other conditions of employment. The most recent Act 93 Agreement is available on the District’s website and is effective July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2022. 
 

What supplies and equipment were provided to teachers in order for them to be prepared to provide quality instruction during 2020-2021 school year? 
The district provides every teacher, regardless of the school year, with a laptop with an integrated webcam. Teacher laptops are replaced approximately every four years, ensuring that staff have access to reliable devices and the most up-to-date software. Additionally, every classroom is equipped with an interactive Promethean Panel that connects to their laptop. 

To prepare for the 2020-2021 school year, the district also distributed extra iPads and Chromebooks to teachers in order to provide more flexibility for delivering online instruction. This included:

  • 20 iPads for music and steam classes and 13 additional Chromebooks at Aiken Elementary School. 

  • 20 iPads for music and steam classes and more than 18 document cameras at Myrtle Avenue Elementary School. 

  • 20 iPads for music and steam classes and between 2 and 5 document cameras at Dormont Elementary School. 

  • 30 additional Chromebooks for special education at Keystone Oaks Middle School. 

  • 20 iPods, 21 iPads for music, art, virtual reality and science classes, and 60 additional Chromebooks for special education and computer science classes at Keystone Oaks High School. 

In addition to the equipment, the district’s Technology Department staff spent time over the summer testing the technology and preparing professional development designed to help teachers how to best use the technology to provide instruction in this environment. Teachers participated in one full week of professional development and were given one week between professional development and the start of classes to prepare for the 2020-2021 school year.

What type of digital resources does the district provide?
All of the district’s current textbooks, except for high school math, have a digital component that includes access to an online version of the textbook and additional resources. 

In addition to textbooks, last summer the district also purchased Classlink and GoGuardian for every student and teacher. These two online programs have been an integral part of online learning. 

Teachers also have access to the following online instructional software:

  • Google Apps Enterprise Edition

  • Vocabulary A-Z

  • First in Math

  • Study Island

  • Brain Pop

  • PearDeck

  • Squid

  • Screencastify

  • Quizlet

  • IXL (Grades 4 & 5)

  • Lexia Learning (Kindergarten)

The apps and programs have been available for several years and were purchased with the input of grade-level teachers, curriculum leaders, Technology Department staff, and administrators. 

The district has an approval process for teachers who want to request that additional programs or software be purchased for use in their classrooms. Those requests are reviewed to determine if they are age-appropriate, are in line with the district’s curriculum, and are not already offered by a program or app the district has already purchased. If a request is approved, it is paid for by the district. If a request is denied, the requestor is given an explanation, and, in accordance with district policies and procedures, should not purchase the program on their own. 

Will the District be receiving additional funding due to the federal stimulus bills that have been approved? 

The Pennsylvania Department of Education recently announced that Keystone Oaks will be receiving $1,654,145 through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER II Fund). This is non-recurring emergency aid that can be used for a variety of programs and supports related to COVI-19 preparedness and response, as well as initiatives associated with measuring and remediating learning loss and efforts to ready school facilities for reopening. 

 

A large portion of this funding will be used for capital projects, including replacing the rooftop air handling units at Myrtle Avenue Elementary School. This is an overdue project and new ones will significantly increase the air exchanges in the building and will have built in ionization, which kills viruses. By allocating some of the stimulus funds toward this project, the district may not have to borrow money to complete the project. 

 

In the spring, Keystone Oaks received $424,500.00 during the first round of funding. This money was used for the following: 

  • $293,060.00 was spent on Chromebooks for virtual instruction

  • $50,000.00 is being used for supplemental workbooks for virtual instruction

  • $31,440.00 went to Nonpublic Schools

  • $50,000.00 was spent on sneeze guards, protective screens, and other PPE equipment 

 

Money that is not put towards capital projects will be used to help offset other expenses the district has incurred due to COVID-19. Stimulus funds such as these are one-time funds and should not be used to offset the costs of recurring expenses, such as salaries and benefits. 

 

For more information about the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER II Fund), please visit the Department of Education’s website

What does it mean when people refer to step movement?
Contracts for education association members include a salary scale that sets the annual salary for members. For each year that an employee works for the district, they move up a step on the salary scale. Each step is associated with a different salary for each year of the contract, which the association member is guaranteed to receive. Moving up a step on the salary scale is equivalent to receiving a pay increase. 

For example, in the board’s most recent offer, this is the proposed salary scale for an employee with a bachelor’s degree who was in their 10th year beginning in 2020-2021:

  • 2020-2021 - $54,500 (Step 10)

  • 2021-2022 - $56,500 (Step 11)

  • 2022-2023 - $62,000 (Step 12)

  • 2023-2024 - $66,500 (Step 13)

  • 2024-2025 - $74,500 (Step 14)

How many KOEA members are at each step?
The number of KOEA members at each step is as follows:

  • Step 1 - 10.0

  • Step 2 -   2.0

  • Step 3 -   5.0

  • Step 4 - 12.0

  • Step 5 - 10.8

  • Step 6 -   7.0

  • Step 7 -   3.0

  • Step 8 -   6.0

  • Step 9 -   6.0

  • Step 10 - 12.0

  • Step 11 -  6.0

  • Step 12 -  18.5

  • Step 13 -  3.0

  • Step 14 - 3.0

  • Step 15 - 3.0

  • Step 16 - 7.5

  • Step 17 - 52.0

With that many KOEA members at the top of the pay scale, isn’t the district anticipating retirements over the next five years? 
Retirements are difficult to predict and plan for because it really is up to the individual employee to decide when they are ready to retire and if retiring makes financial sense. 

For an employee to be eligible for full retirement benefits from the Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System (PSERS), the employee must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Be 62 years of age with a minimum of one year of service

  • Be 60 years of age with 30 years of service 
  • Have 35 years of service, regardless of age. 
Employees who do not meet this criteria but decide to retire early will take a penalty on their state retirement benefit. Looking at the district's employee data through June 30, 2026, it looks as if 10 KOEA members would meet one of the requirements above to be eligible to retire without any penalties. 

 

I have heard that the District has a $6 million fund balance. What can those funds be used for? 

For the 2020-2021 school year, Keystone Oaks’ budgeted expenditures were approximately $42.95 million dollars. The district had a fund balance of approximately $5.58 million. Approximately $2.74 million of Keystone Oaks’ fund balance is set aside mostly for employee pensions and post-retirement benefits, such as healthcare, vacation and sick day payouts, and state-mandated liabilities.

 

Approximately $2.78 million of the district’s fund balance is unassigned and available for unexpected expenses. This represents 6.5% of expenditures, well within both the district’s policy and financial industry guidelines.

 

More information about the District’s fund balance is available online: https://www.kosd.org/FundBalanceInformation.aspx

 

How will COVID-19 impact the District financially?

For the 2020-2021 fiscal year, the District’s budget included a deficit of nearly $830,000 that was expected due to decreased local revenues caused by the impact of COVID-19 on the local economy. The District anticipates real estate tax appeals, especially for commercial properties, which will impact current and future budgets. For example, during the 2019-2020 school year, District revenues decreased by more than $500,000 due to a reduction in property value for a large commercial property in the District. 

 

In April 2020, Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office estimated state budget losses of approximately $3.9 billion due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which would almost certainly reduce the amount of money Keystone Oaks receives from the state. 

I have heard that the teachers, counselors and nurses were asked to take a pay freeze. Is this true?
Yes and no. The most recent contract offer from the Board of School Directors is for KOEA members to receive their annual pay increase on March 1, 2021. Typically, these individuals would have received their salary increase on September 1, 2020, meaning that the pay freeze is six months and not the entire school year. KOEA members would still move up one step on the salary scale, but the pay increase associated with that step would not take effect until March 1, 2021. Moving up on the pay scale is the equivalent of receiving a salary increase. 

Every KOEA member would receive credit for their year of service, which is used by the state retirement system to calculate retirement benefits. Years of Service is a term that is used by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System that refers to how many years an employee has worked in the system. Years of Service is used to determine when an employee is eligible to retire and, if they choose to retire early, what percentage of benefits the employee is eligible for.

Additionally, nearly all other District employees, including administrators, technology department staff, and custodial and maintenance employees agreed to a salary freeze for the duration of the 2020-2021 school year.

How much would the School Board’s most recent proposal cost the district?
The Board of School Director’s current contract proposal would cost the district an additional $6,233,801.16 over the five-year agreement. This includes increased costs for salaries, benefits and stipends (coaching, club sponsors, etc.) 

This $6.2 million dollars does not include other employee fringe benefits, such as matching 403(b) contributions, extra pay (class coverages, teaching classes over 25 or 30, etc.), or tuition reimbursement.

This $6.2 million dollars is an additional expense that would need to be covered by tax increases or reductions in other areas of the budget.

This large expense is driven mostly by the number of KOEA members who will be receiving large salary increases during this 5 year contract. Twenty-four (24) members are between steps 12 and 14 of the contract. Fifty-two (52) KOEA members are at the top of the pay scale. This means that:

  • A KOEA member with a bachelor’s degree and on Step 12 will go from earning $61,000 in 2020-2021 to earning $90,500 in the 2024-2025 school year. 

  • A KOEA member on Step 14 with a masters degree will go from earning $72,750 in 2020-2021 to earning $103,500 in the 2024-2025 school year. 

  • A KOEA member at the top of the scale with a masters degree will go from earning $100,500 in 2020-2021 to earning $105,000 in 2024-2025. 

How much debt does the Board of School Directors have and when will it be paid off?
The chart below outlines the district’s current outstanding debt. The district expects to make its final bond payment during the 2022-2023 school year. While eliminating debt payments will certainly help the District’s budget, there are other capital projects that have been placed on hold in recent years and will need to be completed once there is more flexibility in the budget.

Keystone Oaks School District owns more than 500,000 square feet of building space, in addition to Dormont Memorial Stadium and the grounds at all four campuses. These buildings and equipment need maintained, renovated and, occasionally, replaced, and those projects are expensive. Just as everyone who owns a home or a vehicle understands, if you put off repairs and maintenance, the costs to complete these projects only become more expensive.


Year ending

 Total outstanding bonds

 Bond Payments (including interest)

Total Expenditures for year ended

Percentage of debt to total expenditures

2018

   21,205,000.00

   5,092,132.00

   42,588,179.00

11.96%

2019

   16,515,000.00

   5,156,426.00

   43,539,460.00

11.84%

2020

   12,065,000.00

   5,038,054.00

   42,950,055.00

11.73%

2021

     7,565,000.00

   4,922,000.00

   43,180,714.00 (Budgeted)

11.40%

2022

     3,640,000.00

   4,201,450.00



2023

                           -  

   3,785,600.00





I understand that a memorandum of understanding between the District and KOEA that was in effect due to the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has expired. What does this mean? 

A memorandum of understanding between the District and KOEA was approved in August 2020 for the first semester of the school year. This document has been publicly available on the district’s website for several months - https://www.kosd.org/Downloads/MOU%20Between%20KOSD%20and%20KOEA%208-18-2020.pdf


The District reached out to KOEA on January 4, 2021 to structure a MOU for the second semester. The association did not want to extend or create a new MOU.


Essentially, this agreement outlined some stipulations regarding working conditions for KOEA members given that the circumstances were so different this school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the provisions in the MOU were for the benefit of the employee, including allowing additional planning time for teachers who are providing both in-person and virtual instruction. 


Even without the MOU in place, the District is not planning any changes to the online and or in-person instruction that students are receiving or in the health and safety measures that are in place. The District will continue to follow its Health and Safety Plan and any mandates set forth by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and other federal, state, or local agencies. 


With new housing developments within the District, shouldn’t the District be seeing an increase in revenues? 

Between the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017 and the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021, the district estimates the following changes in property tax collection for the three communities in Keystone Oaks:

  • Castle Shannon - $6.4 million in 2017 vs. $6.7 million 2021

  • Dormont - $6.6 million in 2017 vs. $6.9 million in 2021

  • Green Tree - $11.6 million in 2017 vs. $10.9 million in 2021


The district’s audited financial statements, which are available on the website, show a $1,125,586 decrease in property tax revenues between June 30, 2017 and June 30, 2019. The district’s state funding has increased by $1,261,605 during that same time frame, essentially offsetting the decrease in property tax revenues. 


Additionally:

  • Between June 30, 2017 and June 30, 2018, district expenses increased by $3.3 million while revenues only increased $1.4 million. 

  • Between June 30, 2018 and June 30, 2019, expenses increased by $951,281, with revenues increasing only by $751,300. 


While there may be new housing developments within the District, those new sources of revenue have not offset decreases that the District has seen in other areas. For example, a large commercial property recently underwent a reassessment, which resulted in a $600,000 decrease in property tax revenue beginning with the 2019-2020 school year. 


It is likely that the District could see similar reassessments in recent years, given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the operations of commercial businesses. 


Is it true that the District has added staff and programs over the past several years? 

Yes. In an effort to provide a more relevant and rigorous program of studies that prepares students for post-secondary education and employment opportunities, the Board of School Directors has been able to add new course offerings and hire additional staff over the past few years. 


To date, the district’s budget has been able to support these additional expenses. However, there have also been some facility improvements and other capital projects that have been put on hold in recent years due to fiscal constraints. 


However, just because the district has been able to hire additional staff and invest in new programs does not mean that the district should continue to increase expenses by raising salaries beyond what is affordable. 


Has KOEA been working without a contract this school year?

No. Teachers, nurses and counselors have continued to work under the terms of the agreement that expired on June 30, 2020 and continue to receive pay and benefits as stipulated in that contract.  

 

What is the average salary of a Keystone Oaks teacher?

The average base salary for a Keystone Oaks teacher is approximately $71,186. In addition to their base salary, about 1/3 of the teaching staff earn more than their base salary through stipends for extra duties, including sponsoring clubs, coaching, and stipends for teaching duties. These stipends add an extra $720,000 to teachers take-home pay, increasing salaries by an average of 6.07%. 


How much does health insurance cost the Keystone Oaks School District?

Providing quality health insurance for our employees is something that the Keystone Oaks School District is proud to be able to do. The district is one of more than 40 districts that participates in the Allegheny County Schools Health Insurance Consortium, which negotiates prices and coverage for thousands of public school employees.

 

The costs of health insurance plans range from $7,405.08 annually for an individual to $21,051.96 for a family health insurance plan. KOEA members pay 9 percent of the total cost. 


Do teachers pay for their own classroom supplies? 

As part of the annual budgeting process, all Keystone Oaks teachers have the opportunity to submit requests for classroom supplies. Teachers are never required to pay out-of-pocket for supplies and materials that are necessary to deliver instruction based on the approved curriculum. Many teachers enjoy personalizing their classroom and may, at times, pay out-of-pocket for these supplies if they were not budgeted for as part of the District's process. 

 

What does it mean when the District says it is bargaining "in good faith?"

The legal definition of "good faith bargaining" refers to the duty of the negotiating parties to meet and negotiate at reasonable times with willingness to reach agreement on matters within the scope of representation. Neither party, however, is required to make a concession or agree to any proposal.

 

The Keystone Oaks School District has bargained in good faith with KOEA since January 2020. 

 

What are the "sticking points" in the negotiations between the school district and KOEA?

At this time, the ongoing negotiations between the district and the association are confidential and the district is not able to release details regarding the proposals that have been put forward by either side.

 

Why are there only four school board members on the district’s negotiating team? Why is the solicitor involved in every negotiating session?

When negotiations began in January 2020, the Board of School Directors determined that having four board members on the negotiating team would be appropriate in order to facilitate negotiations in a manner that did not conflict with any applicable laws. The board members on the negotiating team have provided regular updates to the other five board members and have solicited feedback on the proposals presented by both sides. Additionally, there is school board representation from all three communities on the negotiating team. Beginning the week of January 25, the school board representative from Dormont has not been able to physically attend in-person meetings, but has been actively participating in negotiations and discussions. 

 

The Board of School Directors also decided that the district’s solicitor would serve as the chief negotiator in order to ensure that all applicable laws are followed during negotiations and that the contract does not leave the district open to litigation in the future.

 

Having a solicitor present during negotiations is similar to having the appropriate medical doctor examine a broken bone. Sure, you might be able to apply a bandage and let the bone heal on its own, but it is probably not the best decision in the long run.

 

Are contracts for district employees public record?

Yes. All of the contracts for district employees are a matter of public record and a number of contracts are available on the district's website.


How much notice will parents/guardians receive if teachers decide to go on strike?

According to Pennsylvania law, KOEA must provide the district with 48 hours notice prior to going on strike.

 

If KOEA were to strike, how long could it last and what would be the effect on the school year?

According to Pennsylvania law, school districts must complete 180 days of instruction by June 15, 2021. At this time, given the number of make-up days remaining before June 15, 2021, a work stoppage could last a maximum of six days. 

 

If KOEA goes on strike, how will that impact the District calendar? 

If KOEA does implement a work stoppage, the impact to the calendar would depend on the length of the strike. The District will provide an updated calendar as soon as one is finalized

 

Would students continue to attend classes at Parkway West Career & Technical Center?

Yes. Students who attend Parkway West Career & Technical Center would attend at their regular time and transportation would be provided for these students.

 

Would transportation still be provided for students who attend private/parochial schools and those with out-of-district placements?

Yes. Transportation would still be provided for students with out-of-district placements and those who attend private or parochial schools.

© 2021. Keystone Oaks School District. All Rights Reserved.
View text-based website