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Talks in Tuscarora teachers strike set to resume Sept. 11

September 04, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

MERCERSBURG, Pa. -- Teachers and school board members in the Tuscarora School District have tentative plans to resume contract negotiations Sept. 11.

The Tuscarora Education Association teachers strike that started Tuesday was expected to continue Thursday.

"From the association's standpoint, we said, 'Yes, we'd negotiate Sept. 11,' but we'd like to negotiate sooner," said Marcia Bender, a spokeswoman for the faculty union.

Bender, a representative of the Pennsylvania Education Association, said she received a phone call from the mediator Wednesday afternoon. He reportedly told her that the first the school board's negotiating team could meet would be next Thursday.

However, an attorney for the school board said the schedule might be adjusted to possibly include earlier negotiations.

"There might be some other discussions," Carl Beard said.

The district has an unrelated scheduling conflict due to a special election planned for Tuesday. In it, voters will be asked whether they support spending $35 million to renovate James Buchanan High School.

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"It's disappointing for our people to think a building is taking priority over staff," Bender said, adding that the teachers do understand that some of the renovations are important.

Any meeting would need to be held off site because the teachers' negotiating team will not cross picket lines, according to Bender.

Bender said Wednesday that she continued to await notification from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, which will tell both sides how many days the strike can legally continue. All school districts in the state must provide 180 days of instruction by June 15.

The 180-member Tuscarora Education Association has been receiving moral and financial support from other teachers across the state, Bender said.

"Teachers are only ever paid for days they work," she said.

Superintendent Rebecca E. Erb said last Friday that the strike would not necessarily cost the district much financially. The teachers will be paid for the 187 days of their contract when they start work, she said.

The district's 2008-09 academic year was scheduled to start Tuesday. Classes have been canceled, although all athletics except tennis remain on regular schedules.

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