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Teachers upset with newsletter

October 28, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Chambersburg Area School District teachers showed up in force to a school board meeting Wednesday to strongly criticize wording in a Sept. 28 district newsletter.

That electronic newsletter included a section regarding labor relations. In it, district officials say the human resources department is "extremely busy" because the teachers' union had filed eight grievances.

"Most of them appear intended to thwart the district's efforts to deploy its professional staff as efficiently as possible while reducing expenses and providing the same or higher level of educational services to its students," the newsletter states.

District spokeswoman Sylvia Rockwood's office prepares the electronic newsletter. She said administrators, and often school board members, review material before it is disseminated.

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"The district wants to make sure the community is informed," Rockwood said, saying it's important to remain transparent during upcoming teacher contract negotiations.

The current contract with Chambersburg Area Education Association (CAEA) expires at the end of the current school year.

Benjamin Chambers Elementary School physical education teacher Mark Shoap said teachers received a different version of the newsletter earlier in the day. He said he's "shameful and embarrassed" that the administration would "discredit the association" of faculty and staff.

Scotland Elementary School second-grade teacher Theresa Reichard addressed the grievance regarding the adjustment in the workday when bus schedules changed. The workday lengthened without including more planning time, as spelled out in the contract, she said.

"Teachers have less (planning) time now than they did before," Reichard said.

Hamilton Heights Elementary School first-grade teacher Michelle Brubaker echoed Reichard's remarks.

"The issue is the district took more planning time from teachers," she said.

Music teacher Sue Stahl said administrators "unilaterally" eliminated a stipend when consolidating band and orchestra advisory positions. Those stipends are included in the teacher contract, she said.

"The administration and board refuse to talk about this issue," she said.

Scotland fourth-grade teacher Timothy Brookens said he took issue with a document connected to the newsletter that said "the union challenged the district's groundbreaking program to bring social workers and psychologists to three of its elementary schools using a U.S. Department of Education $1.1 million grant."

"It is against the law to contract for outside counseling. To work in the district they must be part of the bargaining unit," he said.

Rockwood said more grievances have been filed since the newsletter's publication.

"The association files grievances because it's the only legal option we have," CAEA Secretary Cynthia Bowen said, saying administrators don't work with the union.

The spike in grievances aren't due to upcoming budget negotiations, but rather a poor management style, she said.

Bowen implored the school board to direct the administration to "stop this battle."

The administration's summary of grievances can be found at http://media.lt01.net/3710/September_2009/List_of_Grievances.pdf.

Later in its meeting, the school board voted unanimously to proceed with a "professional staffing" study. That study by administrators will "determine the minimum professional staffing needs" of the district.

The study is legally a first step before furloughs could occur, Superintendent Joseph Padasak said.

Results are expected in February or March 2010.

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