New calendar for DASD approvedThe Downingtown Area School Board recently approved an amended school year calendar.

The calendar had to undergo changes after the recent teachers union strike. The strike, which began on Jan. 29, lasted seven school days.

The board decided to approve the recommendations from Superintendent Sandra Griffin. Because Wednesday was a snow day, the students will now go to school through June 16.

"It was a tough call, but we think we did what was right for our children," said Griffin.

The last day of school is subject to change if there are more school closings, district officials said.

Griffin recommended that graduation dates "stay set in stone." The board agreed. Downingtown High School East seniors will graduate June 12, and Downingtown High School West seniors will graduate June 13.

No days will be taken away from spring break, which is scheduled from March 17 to 21.

Students will report to class April 25, which was scheduled as an in-service day before the strike.

Students will also go to school on Monday, Presidents Day.

Griffin said revising the calendar is not an easy matter.

Next year the district will consider starting the school year after Labor Day, she said.

Griffin said she tries to coordinate calendar decisions - and inclement weather school closings - with the county's 11 other school districts.

Questions about staff turnover linger after strike

While it's likely the Downingtown teachers union and the school board will both approve the recent tentative agreement on a new contract, the question of salary remains a matter of debate.

And there still is the argument of just how many teachers have left the Downingtown Area School District to work for another school district with higher pay scales.

The Downingtown Area School District had 67 vacancies at the beginning of this school year, a spokeswoman said. Of those 67 vacancies, 19 were due to retirements, 11 were new positions and 18 were for long-term substitutes needed to cover leaves of absence.

The school district received 4,627 applications for 67 vacancies. Of the 19 remaining resignations, three moved out of state, three were rated unsatisfactory, three took positions closer to home, one left to stay home with children, one moved out of the area, one entered administration in another district, one left for health reasons, one left to work with younger children, one left for unknown reasons, one left for family circumstances, one left for personal reasons and two left for a better rate of pay.

According to district officials, teachers give the reason why they are leaving either in a resignation letter or during an exit interview.

"The two teachers that left for better pay equate to only 0.24 percent of the 850 union members," said Pat McGlone, the district's spokeswoman.

But that's not how the Downingtown Area Education Association sees it.

The union has said that in 2006-2007, there were 20 retirements and 57 new teachers were hired for the 2007-2008 school year.

In 2005-2006, there was a similar number of retirements but 75 new teachers were hired at the beginning of the 2006-2007 school year, according to union officials. Only 45 of those 75 teachers have remained in the school district, according to the union.

"High turnover is one way the school board's spending policies will ultimately reduce the value of education being provided at DASD," Paul Gottlieb, the union's chief spokesman, said in January. "When they discover what's available at neighboring districts, teachers are seeking work elsewhere."

The current starting salary for teachers in the school district is $43,330, the average salary is $58,915 and the top salary for teachers is $81,815.

The district has stated that after five years of employment, teachers are able to be vested in the state retirement system.

Teachers who have worked for 35 years with an average salary of $81,815 can receive a yearly retirement income of $71,500, according to the school district.

Teachers can also receive 75 percent reimbursement of tuition costs for courses they take while being employed, according to the district.

Additionally, teachers receive additional compensation for coaching, music, before and after-school clubs and activities, mentors, curriculum leaders, advisers, detention duty and curriculum writing.

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