Dissatisfied with contract proposal, Philly principals choose new union chief

The Philadelphia School District building, N. Broad Street, Philadelphia.

Philadelphia's principals, who earlier this year rejected a contract proposal they considered unfair, have elected new leadership for the union that represents them.

Members of Teamsters Local 502 of the Commonwealth Association of School Administrators opted not to reelect Robert McGrogan, who has been president for six years.

Robin Pleshette Cooper, currently principal of Longstreth Elementary, will become president of the unit that represents principals, assistant principals, and other administrators on Jan. 1.

McGrogan has conceded the election.

"There will be no challenges or protests," McGrogan said. "I will continue to support the new administration, because their success is ultimately our success."

CASA members in June roundly voted down a proposed four-year contract that would have paid them a 3 percent bonus and some salary increases and not increased health-care costs.

McGrogan said his defeat was a referendum on that deal.

"When we proposed the contract and it was rejected just on the doorstep of our election, that was a pretty strong statement," he said.

Cooper, a district administrator for 18 years and Longstreth's principal for 11, said she was excited to take on her new role.

"We want to work for what we believe to be a fair, equitable contract," Cooper said. "We want recognition that we're in the schools and we're working hard."

CASA agreed to give up a promised raise in 2013, amid a dire budget situation for the Philadelphia School District. In doing so, it averted layoffs, but only for a time - some of its members were ultimately let go.

Union members agreed to contracts with concessions in 2011 and 2014, when they took pay cuts of about 15 percent.

"People don't realize how much we've given up to support the district when we were in dire straits," Cooper said. "We want a contract that says, 'We fully support the work that you're doing.' "

Negotiations between CASA and the district have been broken off; Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said at a recent principals' meeting that they would not resume until after the union election.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, the district's largest union, is also negotiating a contract with the district. The PFT has been working without a deal for three years, and its members have gone without a raise for four.

CASA is working under a contract that was extended until the end of the year.

Cooper, who in 2015 won a Lindback Award for leadership, said it would be "bittersweet" to leave the school setting.

McGrogan, after his term expires, will go back to being a principal. He had been principal of Adaire Elementary for seven years prior to winning the CASA job.

kgraham@phillynews.com

215-854-5146 @newskag

www.philly.com/schoolfiles

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