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WASD teacher talks expected to resume in January

Strike authorization vote passed 'overwhelmingly'

December 20, 2010|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Teachers in the Waynesboro Area School District have authorized a strike at any time, but contract negotiations are expected to resume in January.

"We did take a strike authorization vote just like Chambersburg (teachers' union), and it was overwhelmingly passed," Jessica Bryan, president of the Waynesboro Area Education Association, said Monday night.

The next step in negotiations is continued bargaining, Bryan said.

"We'll keep bargaining until we have an agreement," said Richard Galtman, a Philadelphia-area attorney hired by the school board.

Last Thursday, the school board reaffirmed its decision to not accept a fact-finder's report. The Waynesboro Area Education Association has said it would be OK if the report's contents would serve as the basis for a new, three-year contract.

"We haven't changed our mind," Galtman said, saying the school board was required to provide an update to the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board.

Galtman said a teachers union has limited options available to express frustration while continuing to work under an old contract. Among them are striking for a number of days determined by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and based on maintaining a 180-day school year.

The district would receive at least 48 hours notice of any pending strike, Galtman said.

"The contingency is most likely to close the schools. ... We'll tell people as soon as we get notice," he said.

Bryan called a strike "our last resort" and an option that would not be exercised until 2011.

"We don't have anything backing us up anymore. They could drag this on forever," she said.

The teachers had requested fact-finding, which was conducted in November. The report was issued Nov. 29.

Major sticking points haven't changed, Galtman said.

The slumped economy, taxation restrictions from Act 1, and anticipated limits to state and federal funding do not allow the school board to consider the salary increases requested by teachers, Galtman said.  

"When things were good, the district did better by the teachers. ... It's serious when you're talking about salaries and benefits," he said, explaining they affect both sides, whether teachers' paychecks or the board's budget.

Galtman said he thinks the public often has a misunderstanding about how step increases affect salary hikes.

Step increases, which are based on education and years working within the district, average an additional 1.8 percent on top of the general salary increase, he said.

A proposal by the school board says any teacher receiving an unsatisfactory rating in his or her annual job performance review would not receive the step increase for the following year, according to the fact-finding report.

In the report, fact-finder Alex Kaschock said he recommends the district remain with the current policy, rather than add the "unsatisfactory" aspect.

"I think we owe it to the kids and the administration owes it to the kids (to ensure teachers) are satisfactory. The good teacher wouldn't be afraid of this," Galtman said.

Galtman said he hopes representatives for both sides can someday shake hands, although that might not happen on the day a resolution is found. He said one side typically finds the resolution "stressful."

"No one's been outright rude or hostile at the table. ... I give credit to both sides for that," Galtman said.

Bryan said her previous optimism about bargaining has diminished.

"I feel like they don't even take it seriously," she said.

The teachers would like community members to call their school board members to ask them to accept the fact-finder's recommendations as the basis of a contract, Bryan said. The union wants to attract and retain qualified teachers with competitive salaries, she said.

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The numbers
Teachers’ proposal:
2010-11: 3.5 percent plus step increase
2011-12: 3.99 percent plus step increase
2012-13: 4.5 percent plus step increase
School board proposal:
1. Salaries will be frozen for a three-year period in agreement.
2. Any employee receiving unsatisfactory job review shall not receive a step increase.
Fact-finder’s recommendation:
2010-11: 3 percent including step increase
2011-12: 3.5 percent including step increase
2012-13: 3.5 percent including step increase
Maintain current provisions for step increases
Source: Fact-finding report, which is available on Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board website

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