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East Allegheny officials confirm strike, notify parents

| Friday, Aug. 29, 2014, 4:26 a.m.

In a letter mailed to parents and guardians on Thursday, East Allegheny School District said the school year will not begin as scheduled.

The school board's letter confirmed the East Allegheny Education Association's position, which the teachers shared at Wednesday's nearly three-hour negotiating session.

“The teachers have advised that they intend to strike beginning Sept. 2, and we will resume school as soon as the strike is over,” the letter states. “This will affect all students in pre-K through 12th grade who attend the East Allegheny School District buildings.”

The strike will affect the Class of 2015's commencement ceremony, which no longer is scheduled for June 12. A new graduation date will be set when the school calendar is adjusted to reflect necessary makeup days.

The letter reminds parents that Pennsylvania state law requires all students to have 180 days of instruction by June 30.

Confirmation of a work stoppage is the most recent development in a contract dispute between the association and the district, where teachers have been working without a contract since June 2012.

The teachers' bargaining team offered an amended contact package to district negotiators two weeks ago, and that proposal was declined on Wednesday during a final attempt to resolve their dispute before the school year's scheduled start. The 133-member association previously agreed to strike if no agreement could be reached.

“There is no agreement. So as of right now, we will not be starting school on Tuesday,” education association president Cheryl Ihnat said on Wednesday. “We are open to coming back to the table, but I'm sure that's not going to happen.”

Ihnat said the district offered a counterproposal that does not meet the staff's needs. The proposal remained virtually unchanged in the union's eyes, with Ihnat calling it “unreasonable and unrealistic.”

District officials, however, said they're doing their best.

“We have worked tirelessly with the East Allegheny Education Association in an effort to come to an agreement for a new contract,” the school board wrote. “However, we have not been able to agree on a contract that the school district can afford at this time.”

Throughout nego-tiations, the district has said it is seeking a contact that would keep any real estate tax increase to a minimum, saying its proposal would mean an increase from 27.54 mills to 28.28 mills.

District officials said the teachers' proposal would raise taxes by at least 4 mills.

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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