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Ringgold, teachers have tentative deal

| Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, 12:46 a.m.

When Ringgold teachers rejected a fact-finder's recommendation for a contract in June, it kick-started the process that led to the tentative deal completed Wednesday evening.

The Ringgold Education Association is expected to vote Aug. 19 and 20 on the proposal. Union bylaws mandate two separate votes on proposed contracts.

The school board is scheduled to meet Aug. 20, but a special meeting might take place before that to discuss issues with the high school, said Bill Stein, the board's vice president and chief negotiator.

“That was a significant step that certainly played a role in bringing the parties back to the table,” Pennsylvania State Education Association spokesman Fritz Fekete said of the vote to reject the fact-finder's report.

“Although taking that vote was difficult, the membership wanted to make it clear there were some issues that remained and needed to be addressed in negotiating.”

Stein noted that after the teachers rejected the fact-finder's recommendation, the sides returned to the negotiating table.

“We had made steady process all along,” Stein said. “It was just taking a little longer than we had hoped for. We'd always been committed to this process, to making it work.

“It got us to the point (Wednesday night) where we were able to bring it home.”

A good chance

Asked if the union was pleased with how the talks worked out, Fekete said, “That's what the negotiation process is supposed to do. We're pleased there is a tentative agreement.”

Stein said the negotiating teams for both sides will recommend ratification.

“I'm hopeful it will all work out fine,” Stein said.

The teachers worked though the 2013-14 school year without a contract after the old pact expired Aug. 31.

The Ringgold Education Association represents 215 teachers.

The union authorized a strike at a Feb. 10 meeting, but never walked out.

“We had gone through the process and had to tick these items off one by one,” Stein said of negotiation points. “The association was very diligent in working with us to get this done.”

The school board approved a 2014-15 school year budget at a special meeting last month.

“This contract enables us to work within the budget,” Stein said.

“I always said that at the end of the day, there would be contract. And hopefully on Aug. 20, there will be.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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