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Chambersburg teachers clamor for new contract

Demonstrators crowd school board meeting

February 16, 2011|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com
  • Shannon Shields and her daughter, Aurora, prepare to enter the Chambersburg Area School Board meeting Wednesday night to express their feelings about ongoing teacher contract negotiations.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — The Chambersburg Area School District's teachers wanted to send a message during a school board meeting Wednesday night.

Consider it done.

Close to 200 teachers crowded around the entrance to the district administration building by 6 p.m. for the board's meeting, which was not scheduled to start until 7 p.m. Many held signs to show their displeasure about having no new contract in place and no signs of progress.

"We have an upcoming negotiation session next week, and we're here tonight to encourage the board to come and negotiate," Chambersburg Area Education Association President Dave Snyder said, emphasizing the word negotiate.

The board and union will meet again on Feb. 23, Snyder said.

Some of the signs held by teachers read "Education is not a business," "Don't wait. Negotiate" and "Shippensburg settled. Why can't we?"

The crowd of teachers was not allowed to enter the building until the board finished presenting awards to its January and February students of the month, which is the only reason one teacher said he enjoys coming to board meetings.

In an attempt to control the scene, the district called in extra security to account for the increased attendance at the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Cathy Dusman said.

"We certainly understood that they were going to be here in full force," Dusman said. "They are hoping to be able to share a message with everyone who's here. We certainly have more security here than we had in the past because we knew we were going to have a much larger crowd."

Teachers held up signs inside the board room before school board President Norm Blowers asked that the signs be lowered to allow all parties to see and hear during the meeting.

Snyder wished to address the board, but was not allowed to until a public comment period near the end of the meeting. Snyder provided the Herald-Mail with a copy of his statement.

In it, Snyder questioned the district's tactics for turning down recent fact-finding proposals that were accepted by the union.

"It's time for you to be honest to the taxpayers of the district," Snyder said. "It's not about the money."

Snyder brought up the idea that the board is holding out to "see if we have the mettle to strike."

"There is no doubt that you can drag this process out until striking is our only option," Snyder said. "When that happens, it won't be because we've decided to strike. Rather it will be because you've left us no alternative.

"Are you serving your constituents by putting us in a position where we have no other option?" Snyder asked the board.

Chambersburg teachers have been working without a contract for 231 days and have been attempting to reach a resolution with the board for more than a year, Snyder said.

"It is time for our school board to show leadership," Snyder said. "If they work with us as partners, we can reach an agreement that is good for our schools, our students and our community."

Dusman said the district is still "very serious" about negotiations.

"We understand their concerns," she said. "We are still continuing to negotiate, and we will plan on trying to progress and move forward in as positive of a manner as possible."

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