Highlands School District and teachers’ union agree to 5-year deal

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The Highland School District teachers, who have been without a contract for more than seven months, have signed a five-year contract until June 2026.

The district and the Highlands Education Association (HEA) announced the contractual agreement on Wednesday after both parties ratified a plan that includes wage increases averaging 3.5%.

Insurance premium contributions will increase each year and several non-monetary details were also discussed, according to a statement from HEA President Ryan Wilpula and Superintendent Monique Mawhinney.

“We are pleased that we were able to reach a fair agreement that takes into account the needs of the district, the taxpayers and the teachers of Highlands,” Wilpula and Mawhinney said in the joint statement.

“Ultimately, the primary focus of the union and the school district is the children, and both teams worked hard to reach an agreement that sought compromise.”

Health care benefits, with employee contributions for Community Blue Flex EPO, will start this year at 8% of premium, capped at $100 per month. The monthly cap will increase slightly each year.

The contract is effective immediately.

Last fall, teachers marked the end of 100 days of work without a contract by posting neon green signs in their vehicles, marked with a bold “100”.

Wilpula said at the time it was an act of solidarity and a way to remember that several months had passed without an agreement with the district.

He also said starting salaries for Highland teachers were not an issue.

The district maintains a very competitive salary for new hires and ranks 21st out of 46 in starting salary in Allegheny County.

When a teacher is hired, Highlands pays $48,050. The county’s highest starting salary is just over $52,375.

Wilpula said it was the career pay rate that was a sticking point. The career salary rate is the salary that a teacher achieves after 18 years of employment.

The two sides have met more than a dozen times in the past year to hammer out an agreement and said on Wednesday they both appreciated the professionalism shown in the negotiations.

Tawnya Panizzi is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Tawnya at 724-226-7726, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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