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Tuscarora teachers strike settled

classes to begin today

September 09, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

MERCERSBURG, Pa. -- The superintendent of the Tuscarora School District spent Monday afternoon making changes to the school calendar as she prepared for 2,800 students to start their 2008-09 academic years today.

More than six hours of negotiations Sunday yielded a tentative faculty contract in the Tuscarora School District, meaning school will be in session today after a week's delay due to teacher picketing. With negotiations ending after 10:30 p.m., the decision was made not to announce a Monday start of school.

"Due to the lateness of the hour, there was no way to notify all the essential personnel and get the word out to the community," said Carl Beard, an attorney for the school board.

"I think it was a give-and-take on both parties to reach a tentative agreement," said Marcia Bender, a spokeswoman for the union.

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Bender said details of the agreement won't be released until the bargaining unit reviews them. She expects to provide the Tuscarora Education Association with documents later this week, then ask the teachers for a final vote.

"Everyone worked very hard on a tentative settlement, both sides, and we need to get students back to school," Superintendent Rebecca E. Erb said.

Students were scheduled to start school Tuesday, Sept. 2, along with all the other public schools in the county. However, the teachers announced the Saturday before that they would strike because they hadn't gotten a contract out of almost a year of negotiations.

Both sides said that sticking points were salary increases and contributions to medical insurance premiums.

On Monday, Erb said she expected to regain most of the missed instructional time with built-in snow make-up days. Like all districts in Pennsylvania, Tuscarora is required to provide 180 days of classes.

When asked whether she would have done anything differently now that she can look back on the process, Bender said she would not.

"I think from our perspective, we were very upfront with our issues and what we would need to do if we didn't have an agreement," said Bender, a representative of the Pennsylvania Education Association.

The attorney for the school board was asked the same question.

"You never second-guess. I think everybody at the time was doing what they thought they should," Beard said.

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