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Teachers in 3 districts awaiting contracts as school year nears

| Monday, Aug. 12, 2013, 6:55 a.m.

On the eve of a new school year, Duquesne City, East Allegheny and Elizabeth Forward districts still have contract issues with their teachers unions.

“Everyone is moving through these things very cautiously because of this economic environment that the schools have been placed into,” Pennsylvania State Education Association region field director Daniel Carey said on Friday.

Contract disputes in Duquesne and East Allegheny date back to the end of the 2011-12 school year.

“You have a general situation where school districts, for the first time really in history, they have no money,” said Bruce Campbell, special labor counsel for the East Allegheny School District. “There's no federal money. There's no state money.”

More than 200 of the state's 500 school districts are in contract negotiations. Spokespersons on both sides said factors include reduced funding from Harrisburg.

“It is not a good time to raise taxes, especially here in Allegheny County ... and the reassessment doesn't help,” Campbell said.

Talks were held up in Duquesne until its “severe financial recovery” status was resolved in an Allegheny County Common Pleas courtroom.

“We've only had one meeting,” Carey said on behalf of the Duquesne Education Association. “We're hoping for a fair and equitable contract.”

Duquesne's court-appointed receiver, Paul B. Long, said on Friday he did not know when the next round of talks would be held but expected that “we will be back at the table soon.”

Carey said he is trying to set up additional meetings with Duquesne's solicitor William Andrews.

On Tuesday, Long is scheduled to consider a contract recently approved by the Duquesne Educational Support Personnel Association.

“We're real pleased to have a contract with the support staff and we hope to get there with the professional staff,” Long said.

“We thought that was a fair deal,” Carey said. “We hope we can come to a similar deal for the teachers.”

Specific details of the deal have not been released, pending Long's decision on Tuesday night.

East Allegheny still is without an agreement despite efforts that included one-on-one talks between school director Dr. Frederick Miller and East Allegheny Education Association president Lou Gerbi.

“The district is much worse off than most districts, financially,” Campbell said. “Also the teachers are better off than most teachers in Allegheny County.

“The parties are still talking. They had a meeting not too long ago, and they're talking about having another meeting.”

Contract talks continue in Elizabeth Forward between the district and the education association.

“They've actively been bargaining,” Carey said. He is not involved and said he has no details.

A five-year contract expires in Elizabeth Forward on Aug. 31.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1967.