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August 27, 2014, 3:04 pm

Local Catholic teachers approve deal

Students at 17 Catholic high schools in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties will be back in class Tuesday — after striking teachers accepted a new three year contract on Monday.

Members of the Association of Catholic Teachers, Local 1776 approved a new three-year contract by a 589-41 vote.

“The contract now in place is truly the watershed agreement we had hoped to obtain for the current and future benefit of students, parents, teachers and administrators,” said officials with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, in an open letter posted on its website. “It features the acceptance of the following items, among others, that we view as essential to continued educational excellence for our schools in a 21st century learning landscape.”

Approximately 700 teachers walked off the job on Sept. 7 after months of negotiations failed.

Union president Rita Schwartz could not be reached on Monday, but repeatedly charged the archdiocese with undermining the dignity of teachers.

“This strike is not about money and has never been about money,” she said. “It is about retaining dignity in the work place and obtaining fair treatment.”

The new contract stipulates that full-time teachers cannot be replaced by part-timers and provides teachers with a raise for each year of the agreement — $1,300, $1,400, $1,600 respectively.

Teachers and archdiocesan officials jousted over pay and control over curriculum and lesson planning, seniority and tenure, among other things.

The agreement was reached without a mediator, something striking teachers had called for last week. The archdiocese refused, and this week trumpeted its success.

“The introduction of a mediator could have watered down many of these provisions, to the detriment of our students,” said the statement.

Students will have to add five days to their school year to make up for the days lost.

“As a result of the strike, five instructional days will need to be made up,” school officials said. “The administration from your child’s school will inform you of these dates.”

Teachers walked out two weeks ago but the 16,502 students at the affected high schools continue to attend class until last Tuesday. The dispute does not affect students who attend Catholic elementary schools. Teachers in those schools are not unionized.