Waynesboro Area School District negotiations described as unproductive

Waynesboro is the only Franklin County, Pa., school district without a current teacher contract

April 13, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Negotiating teams for the Waynesboro Area School Board and the district's teachers union met Wednesday for a bargaining session that both sides described as unproductive.

The meeting involved "heated exchanges" and "disagreement," according to Richard Galtman, a lawyer serving as lead negotiator for the school board.

"I think the frustration level on both sides is palpable. ... We disconnect on what is and what is not a fair proposal," Galtman said.

"It has definitely turned to hostile discussion, majorly hostile discussion of the financial status of the board. They continue to maintain their proposal," said Jessica Bryan, president of the teachers' bargaining unit.

The last contract between the school board and the teachers union, Waynesboro Area Education Association, expired at the end of June 2010. The 271-member association authorized a strike, but has not initiated one.

"That is still a possibility," Bryan said of a strike. "We're looking at dates when we'd least interfere with students."

The next bargaining session was scheduled for April 25. Neither side presented new proposals Wednesday.

"They come and just look at us," Bryan said.

"I think there is a disconnect between what they feel they are entitled to and what we can afford," Galtman said.

The teachers agreed to forego salary increases the first year of the new contract, but they want considerations in other areas, such as fewer in-service days, according to Bryan.

Although Waynesboro is the only Franklin County, Pa., school district without a current teacher contract, Galtman said he's seeing similar impasses across Pennsylvania.

"This is not uncommon. Unfortunately, it's occurring all over the state," he said.

Bryan said morale is low because of "disarray" in the district over the past year.

"It's really starting to wear on people," she said. "It's tough."

Galtman said the district is strapped for cash, in part because Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has proposed returning education spending to 2008-09 levels before federal stimulus dollars infused coffers.

"I don't believe anyone is disingenuous in their belief of their position," Galtman said.

Both Galtman and Bryan said they're unsure how much longer they will continue to meet if progress isn't made.

"We're not moving in a positive (way) at all," Bryan said.

Galtman explained a bargaining session must be held if at least one side wants to meet.

"The law requires the parties to bargain in good faith. At the end of the day, neither side is required to change its positions," Galtman said.

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