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East Allegheny School District responds to latest negotiations quibble

| Friday, March 15, 2013, 7:30 a.m.

East Allegheny School District is answering statements made this week by its teachers union president.

After consulting their labor attorney Bruce D. Campbell, district officials said East Allegheny Education Association president Lou Gerbi “has now threatened a strike.”

They also said they received “notice of concerted activity by the EAEA,” but were not more specific.

Gerbi said he was responding to rumors about teacher activity when he said EAEA had not taken a strike vote.

“The teachers have fulfilled all their contractual duties,” Gerbi said. “We are not involved in any illegal activities. The association has always put the students and their interests first.”

The EAEA president pointed out at Monday's school board meeting that the teachers have worked without a contract for more than 250 days.

The district replied that “135 out of 160 school districts” in Pennsylvania that had contracts expire June 30 still are bargaining.

Locally that includes East Allegheny and Duquesne.

“These are very difficult financial times for school districts across Pennsylvania,” East Allegheny officials said, reiterating many points they made previously.

That includes claims that “the teachers have one of the most expensive salary schedules in Western Pennsylvania” and “East Allegheny taxpayers have the third highest tax burden for education” out of 500 Pennsylvania districts.

“These facts have not been disputed by the EAEA,” the district said.

The district recalled the recommendations made last summer by a state fact-finder, and said the union has never made a proposal in writing even close to them.

“We accepted the fact-finders' proposal two different times,” Gerbi said. “They were the ones who rejected it.”

Gerbi said the negotiations are supposed to be give-and-take and that he had talked with school director Frederick Miller during their sidebar one-on-one talks with a state mediator.

“I didn't know why it was so important to have these things on a piece of paper,” the EAEA president said.

East Allegheny officials said they are committed to bargaining in good faith, but Gerbi said the union was negotiating in good faith while the district “continued to twist the facts.”

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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