Contracts Would Need Negotiating In Clymer, Panama Merger

A Clymer resident speaks last week in the second of two public meetings regarding a potential merger of the Clymer and Panama school districts. If approved, staff contracts would need to be negotiated. P-J photo by Jordan W. Patterson

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of stories analyzing the feasibility study of a possible consolidation of the Panama and Clymer school districts. Today’s analysis looks at the finances in the districts, something those on the merger committee felt wasn’t well understood by district residents. Future stories will include teacher contracts, academic offerings, student transportation, buildings and the future of the districts.

One of the typical stumbling blocks of proposed mergers or consolidations is how to merge multiple sets of existing contracts into one new entity.

Similar positions may have dozens of differences, including wage schedules, different wage increases for each step along the life of the contract and different time off provisions, to name a few.

The proposed merger between the Panama and Clymer school districts is no different.

While there are differences in health care coverage options, both districts pay 85 percent of an individual health insurance plan and pay teachers not taking a health insurance plan $2,500, though teachers in Panama can receive $100 more if more than 12 teachers agree not to take insurance, with an additional $100 for each additional teacher past 12 who doesn’t participate in a school insurance plan.

Clymer teachers receive 15 days of sick leave each year, two more than Panama. Three of Clymer’s sick days are for personal leave, while Panama teachers receive four personal days in addition to their sick leave. Panama teachers can have unused personal leave added to accumulated sick time. Both districts allow teachers to accumulate sick days, with Clymer capping its teachers at 230 sick days and Panama at 220 sick days.

Both districts offer paid health insurance after a teacher retires, if the teacher worked in the district for 20 years. In Clymer, the district pays 80 percent of the premium for single retirees and 60 percent of the premium for two people, for 10 years.

In Panama, 20-year teachers who also accumulated a maximum of 100 sick days can receive an amount equal to the yearly cost of a traditional health insurance plan, paid in full and adjusted yearly to reflect current rates until the retiree turns 65.

The districts also pay out for unused sick time. In Clymer, the amount is 1/200th of the teacher average of three consecutive years. In Panama, it’s $75 per unused sick day, not to exceed $16,500.

Clymer paid health care expenses for 46 retirees in each of the last two school years at a cost of $259,278 in 2016-17 and $289,107 in 2017-18. Panama had 10 retirees in 2016-17 at a cost of $77,919 and has six retirees and four possible retirees in 2017-18 at a cost of $112,175.

Clymer teachers receive $35 per hour for curriculum rate professional development plan while Panama teachers receive $25 per hour.

Clymer’s working day is 15 minutes longer than Panama’s.

The salary schedules for each district are similar on a number of steps. Most salary schedules limit Bachelor degree schedules after five years because certification requirements demand a master’s degree by the end of the fifth year. If a teacher does not have that degree by the fifth year, the teacher is considered uncertified. The current schedules are based on each teacher having earned a bachelors’ degree.

Panama teachers start at a higher rate than Clymer’s teachers ($42,525 in Panama and $38,500 in Clymer). Teachers with a bachelor’s degree in Panama earn more than their counterparts in Clymer until the teacher’s 10th year, when Clymer’s bachelor-degree holding teachers begin to earn more through retirement. Teachers with a master’s degree at Panama will earn more than their counterparts in Clymer until the 20th year of a teacher’s tenure. At 25 years, a Clymer teacher will earn $85,000 while a Panama teacher with a bachelor’s degree earns $90,018 and a master’s degree holder earns $92,218.

While it would likely take some negotiation to arrive at a contract for all of the teachers in a merged district, the cost may not be as much as anticipated. The Merger Feasibility Study pegs the cost to equalize teacher pay across the districts at about $150,000, or 9 percent of incentive aid.

The situation is roughly the same for support staff contracts, with Clymer offering a health program similar to the teaching staff. Panama does not offer as generous a package for support staff.