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Tuscarora officials optimistic teacher strike can be averted

August 26, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

MERCERSBURG, Pa. -- The possibility of a teacher strike looms in Tuscarora School District, where students are expected to return to class one week from today.

Marcia Bender, spokeswoman for the faculty union, said the teachers' negotiating team in the ongoing contract dispute has been given the authority to make the decision about a strike. Because state law requires 48 hours notice prior to a teacher walkout, the latest a decision could be made would be early Sunday morning.

"We bargained last Wednesday, Aug. 20, and we did not reach an agreement, although we talked (constructively) about the outstanding issues," Bender said.

Salaries and contributions to medical insurance continue to be at the heart of the disagreement between the faculty and school board, she said.

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Carl Beard, an attorney for the school board, said he has some things he needs to talk over with the board members later this week. Both sides said they left the bargaining table with proposals over which to mull.

"I feel school is going to start without any sort of work stoppage. Everybody expects school to start as it usually does," Beard said.

Feedback from the school board will be forwarded onto the Pennsylvania Bureau of Mediation, according to Beard.

Eighteen new teachers participated in orientation in the school district Monday, Superintendent Rebecca E. Erb said. That orientation included a bus tour of different school buildings and communities, she said.

"We're cautiously optimistic we'll get back to school with a normal start," Erb said.

A fact finder used in the negotiations recommended salary increases of 4.25 percent to 4.4 percent each year of the new four-year contract.

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