Avondale Schools approves new contract with teachers union

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published September 26, 2012

ROCHESTER HILLS — After many months of negotiations, the Avondale Schools Board of Education unanimously ratified the 2012-13 contract with the 192 teachers in the Avondale Education Association.

The union was in negotiations with Avondale administrators over the details of the contract — which went into effect Sept. 1 and covers the 2012-13 school year — for about seven months, according to AEA President Carol Czechowski. The previous contract expired Aug. 31.

Officials on both sides said the process was typical of years past, but they noted that bargaining groups spent more time negotiating the contract this year.

“It took about two months longer to negotiate our contract this year,” Czechowski said.

“It was, I think, seven months that we spent making sure we did the best we could,” Avondale Superintendent George Heitsch added.

Czechowski said the district and the association work collaboratively during contract negotiations.

“We look at interests, and we look at possible solutions to issues that we may have, whether financial or concerning conditions for children in the classroom. Because of that, we’re always able to come up with an agreement that is the best agreement, under the circumstance. This year, there were many cuts to public education as a result of funding cuts from the state of Michigan, and looking at that, we came to what we believe is the best solution for our students and the teachers that are teaching our students. We now we have a one-year contract as a result of that,” she said.

Under the new contract, teachers will receive a one-year pay freeze extension — which means no step or salary increases — for the 2012-13 school year, and all teachers will take an additional 4.25 percent pay reduction, plus 5.125 furlough days, for a total compensation reduction of 8.5 percent since the 2010-11 school year. School officials said the number of furlough days might be reduced if enrollment increases. While AEA members covered by the district’s health care plan will continue their level of contribution at 20 percent of the premium on a pre-tax basis, longevity pay for teachers in the district 18 years or longer was suspended. Extracurricular compensation for such positions as coaches and club sponsors will decrease by 10 percent under the contract.

“Our teachers are always very willing, in terms of their willingness to assist the district, because we know that our students are very important. They are the most important aspect of this, so we were very happy to work with the district, in terms of the district’s very difficult budget solution,” Czechowski said.

The new contract will assist in continuing the district’s ongoing deficit reduction plan, Heitsch added.

“At this point, we’re about a million and a half dollars in debt, but those numbers will change,” he said. “We’re waiting for our final audit figures for last year, and we’re waiting for enrollment.”

Heitsch thanked the Avondale teachers for their flexibility in meeting the needs of the district and the students.

“We’re very, very grateful that the staff worked so collaboratively with us to help figure out how to get rid of this deficit that we’re in,” he said.