Harrisburg school district, employees union ratify agreement

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HARRISBURG - Both the Harrisburg School District Board of Education and the Harrisburg Education Association, the union that represents teachers, nurses and other employees, ratified a contract Tuesday that ends a 1,431 day impasse without one.

The agreement had been reached last week followed a contentious series of negotiations between the union's bargaining team and the school district.

"It's a win-win for both sides," HEA president Jody Barksdale said. "Both sides did what they needed to do and I wasn't sure if we were going to get here but we did, we did and it's a good feeling to know that it's over with."

Union members will get their first raise in  five years, but will pay a larger share of their health insurance premiums in exchange.

The school board praised the HEA for its patience.

"I appreciate you sticking by us," board president Danielle Robinson said. "There was always the intention of giving you what you deserve."

The board had to approve changes to the school district's recovery plan before it could ratify the agreement, which it did unanimously as well after weeks of public meetings and input.

"We made the changes so that our success wasn't contingent upon what the city does, because I think we've come so far we don't want our progress stopped because the city hasn't made progress," Robinson said.

Both sides hope the end of the impasse will bring stability to a district that has lost more than 400 teachers in the last four years.

"Nothing in my mind was more important than workforce stability, and that's across the line," board vice president James Thompson said. "I think this is going to be great for our teachers; now let's keep going."

Once the contract is signed, it will take effect on July 1st. It will be valid until the completion of the 2017-18 school year.