Nazareth School Board members voted 6-1 at a special meeting Monday night to approve a salary matrix for the district's teachers -- just in time for the start of the new school year and a new teachers contract.
The matrix will take effect Sept. 1 -- when the district's teachers enter a new contract extension, which calls for a 3.75 percent average raise. Some teachers will receive raises of more than 3.75 percent; some will receive less.
The contract also called for the Nazareth Area Education Association (NAEA) to construct a salary matrix, or schedule, to determine how large a raise teachers at each of the 16 steps on the salary scale will receive. That matrix must be approved by the school board before it takes effect.
The board on Aug. 22 from the association. Board members and district superintendent Victor Lesky said the proposed raises were too high at the top of the scale and too low at the bottom.
At last week's meeting, Lesky said the first proposed matrix would hurt Nazareth's ability to compete with surrounding districts for top entry-level teaching talent.
The NAEA agreed last Wednesday to a revised salary matrix with lower raises at the top and higher raises at the bottom; the board approved the deal Monday night.
Board member and treasurer Thomas Maher cast the lone “no” vote. Maher, a certified public accountant who often speaks in favor of fiscal prudence at board meetings, said the board should not approve the salary matrix when the district is facing a grievance the NAEA filed with the National Labor Relations Board.
“The district is taking a risk,” Maher said. “I find the risks too great for the district to take on.”
If an independent arbitrator rules in the NAEA's favor, it could cost the district about $585,000, Maher added.
Other board members agreed the teachers' grievance was unjustified, but they argued that the grievance and the salary matrix are separate issues.
Specific nuts and bolts of both the salary matrix and the grievance were hard to come by Monday. The president and vice president of the NAEA sat in the audience during the meeting, but did not speak to or interact with the board and declined to comment to the media after the meeting.
The salary matrix, once approved, becomes public record and will be available on Tuesday, Lesky said after the meeting. A copy of the matrix was not available Monday night; however, Lesky indicated that teachers at Step 16 -- the high end of the scale -- will receive raises of 1.84 percent.
Lesky said the grievance concerns money, and a closed hearing will be held on Sept. 20, according to Lesky.
“[The NAEA] believe the total amount of dollars is being calculated incorrectly,” he said.