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Duquesne teachers revisit bargaining process

| Tuesday, June 10, 2014, 3:46 a.m.

Duquesne Education Association and the district's administration are revisiting the collective bargaining process with talks of potential arbitration.

Teachers announced a strike on Friday afternoon and called it off before classes resumed on Monday.

The district planned to operate Duquesne Education Center on Monday and Tuesday without the teachers being present, but the union released a weekend statement that called that option “unsafe.”

After a full day of classes on Monday, teachers met with administrators and district officials.

“We exchanged proposals,” Pennsylvania State Education Association UniServ representative Dan Carey said. “Each side presented a proposal that was slightly different than what they proposed before, but nothing has seriously changed.”

Duquesne Education Association and the district's leadership have been negotiating a contract extension since their formal agreement expired at the start of the 2012-13 school year for 35 professional staff including 20 classroom teachers, along with academic coaches, a guidance counselor, a psychologist and a nurse.

Their stalemate has been based on weighing teacher requests against the district's legal obligation to improve its financial and educational status.

With the district in a state of educational and financial recovery, wages were frozen in 2012-13. Because of that, staff members said they have lost a full step increase on the wage scale.

The March issuance of a third-party fact-finding report revealed that the district's court-appointed receiver, Paul B. Long, proposed tying teacher wages to student performance increases in reading and math scores on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment standardized tests. Teachers unanimously opposed that proposal and all others that tie wages to student performance.

“The receiver is adamant that he has to be able to tie this to some sort of external measure, whatever that may be,” Carey said. “The association is adamantly opposed to that.”

Carey explained the only remaining option to resolve a contract stalemate within collective bargaining law is arbitration, which is achieved through a strike or through a mutual agreement to seek arbitration.

There will be at least one more collective bargaining session before students' scheduled return in August. Arbitration was discussed on Monday and will be discussed throughout the summer, Carey said.

“There was some discussion about the nonbinding arbitration process, whether that's something that may help,” he said. “There was no decision made, but we are going to discuss it further.”

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or jvertullo@tribweb.com.

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