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Shaler teachers stop volunteering to bring 'urgency' to contract talks

| Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, 12:32 a.m.

The president of the Shaler teachers' union said Thursday that teachers are ceasing volunteer activities — including chaperoning trips and activities — until they get a contract with the district.

“We're trying to bring awareness and urgency to the situation. We've been working without a contract since last year. There's not a real sense of urgency with the board,” said Melissa Ravas, president of the 380-member Shaler Area Education Association. “People aren't willing to take on anything additional because we feel like we're taken for granted.”

April Kwiatkowski, president of the District Parent Council, said the organization and parent-faculty groups are working to establish an “arsenal of volunteers.”

Shaler Area teachers have been without a contract since Aug. 15, 2011. The union and district officials have been meeting since January 2011.

A meeting is scheduled for Tuesday with the union, district and a mediator.

The union and the school district each rejected a fact finder's report at the end of 2011.

Shaler Area school board President Jim Giel said he was surprised when a packet containing 50 to 75 pages was delivered to his home, detailing activities where teachers would not participate.

“The Christmas play, chaperoning powder-puff football, ticket takers at events, letters of recommendation, trips — even providing Kleenex and candy in the classroom,” Giel said. “I'm saddened by it. We'll do everything possible, whatever we can to get chaperones. We will never let senior prom get canceled — even if I have to sit and plan the prom myself, I will.”

The situation erupted at Wednesday's school board meeting attended by more than 50 students and parents.

“We're not here to tell you how to do your job, we're not here to pick sides...we're not here to talk about terms and figures,” said Collin Ziegler, a senior.

“Please help us protect our activities. We're seeing our senior year threatened because of things that are out of our control.”

Ravas said events to which teachers have already committed, such as coaching sports, will continue.

Giel said the district is considering paying for volunteers to get required clearances to chaperone events.

Superintendent Wes Shipley said some elementary intramural games have been canceled because of lack of teacher volunteers but no large district events have been affected so far.

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com. Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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