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Contract negotiations with Ligonier Valley teachers remain unsettled

| Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Supporters of the Ligonier Valley Education Association attended Monday's school board meeting while the group's president Donna Lamont spoke on its behalf about the recent fact-finding report requested by teachers to help settle contract negotiations with the board.

“On July 9, a fact-finding hearing was held, requested and filed by the association in an effort to resolve our differences and secure an agreement,” Lamont said during public comment.

“Many issues were in fact resolved as a result of filing that request. Fact-finding does not guarantee agreements, and this hearing has not resulted in an agreement thus far.

The Ligonier Valley teachers voted overwhelmingly to reject the report. The district's conditional acceptance of the vote was ruled an unacceptable response and therefore a rejection as well, by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board. The hearing has, however, enabled stalled negotiations to move forward and it is the desire of this education association to continue to move forward.”

Board President Bruce Robinson also read a statement related to the contract negotiation, which both parties have been trying to reach since January 2012.

“The school board wants a labor contract with the association and believes a framework for an agreement has been developed in this report,” he said.

During the fact-finding hearing, which serves as a sort of unbiased arbitrator, the teachers presented seven issues while the board presented issues with salary and benefits, according to Robinson. Superintendent Christine Oldham said it's evident both parties want to resolve the issues.

“They are all about doing what's best for kids and providing a first-class education for students,” she said.

In other news:

• The board approved a $1 million 21st Century Education grant awarded to the district by the Richard King Mellon Foundation. In addition to funding the district's new iPad initiative, the grant will fund various technology-related initiatives over the course of three years, including adding wireless Internet access to the elementary and middle schools, creating a gaming, application production and programming course and giving teachers the opportunity to write iBooks.

“It really is a game-changer,” Oldham said of the grant.

• The board also approved administering the Pennsylvania Youth Survey, an anonymous, voluntary survey completed by students in grades six, eight, 10 and 12 that gathers information about “at-risk behaviors among youth,” according to Oldham. The survey does not cost the district money. After the survey report is completed and released, the information is made public.

“The survey information is really useful in looking at your health and wellness initiatives, as well as drug and alcohol education,” Oldham said. “It's not only useful to the school district, but it's also useful to the local police departments and is helpful to student, parent and community education.”

• The board also approved Athletic Director Brett Miller's resignation effective immediately. Oldham said Miller has left the district in a good position.

“All of the fall sports are up and ready to go and the administration will step in for a little bit in a monitoring capacity than a planning capacity right now because we're OK with our fall sports,” she said.

A new athletic director will not be hired until at least the next meeting.

The next meeting will be held Sept. 9.

Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or