Contract battle draws ire of some Shaler Area residents
Many Shaler Area residents are growing frustrated with the prolonged contract negotiations between the school district and teachers' union.
Last week an auditorium full of parents, teachers, students and community members asked for a resolution.
“I'm not here to advocate for anyone or any position,” said Dorothy Petrancosta, of Shaler. “I am here to advocate for a contract.”
Shaler Area teachers have been working under the conditions of an expired contract since Aug. 15, 2011. The Shaler Area Education Association, the collective bargaining unit, and district officials have been meeting since January 2011 to negotiate a new deal.
On Nov. 19, the Shaler Area Education Association voted to authorize the union leadership to call a strike. Under the collective bargaining legislation, teachers are required to give 48 hours notice, which Shaler Area teachers now can do at any time.
“That is in the back of our minds as a parent every day,” said April Kwiatkowski, president of the District Parent Council.
Kwiatkowski then asked both negotiations teams to compromise.
“Come to the table with one thing that you haven't considered before,” she said.
School board President James Giel said the district's negotiation team suggested negotiating in the same room instead of the current arrangement of keeping the two sides in different rooms with the mediator acting as the messenger.
“Last evening, we were refused,” Giel said. “Our side, as was reported to us today (Wednesday), asked to meet at the table.”
Giel's comments were met with cries from the teachers in the audience of “That's not true.”
However, Superintendent Wes Shipley confirmed that the mediator reported to the district negotiation team that the teachers' union wanted to maintain negotiations in separate rooms with the mediator.
When asked by a parent in the audience if there was any progress made at the negotiation meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 15, Giel said, “no.”
Many parents and community members in attendance at last week's regular voting meeting spoke in support of smaller class sizes, more teachers in the school and better compensation for teachers to attract the highest-quality educators.
“I fail to hear any speaker supporting the school board position,” said Andrew “Buzz” Barkovich of Shaler.
“If that's the case, since the school board is working for the public, for the taxpayer, listen to what the taxpayer is saying here. Do what your constituents are saying.”
However, some speakers asked the school board members to remember the taxpayers who are footing the bill.
“Is there a number the public can be made aware of to reach the teachers' demands?” Scott Harris of Shaler asked the school board.
When Giel said that by answering he would be crossing the line and negotiating in public, which is not permitted under the negotiations agreement, Harris asked if the teachers knew that number.
“Because I don't want my taxes to go up again,” he said.
“What we're hearing, what I'm hearing, is the classrooms (sizes) are getting large, but the teachers want more money, but as a business owner, I know sometimes the money isn't there.
“I'm trying to understand how we get the best out of everybody.”
Giel said that while he couldn't comment on the specific negotiation issues, wages, benefits, class size, work days and the work environment all are topics of the negotiations.
The next negotiation meeting is scheduled for today, Thursday, Jan. 24.
Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Sain’s spirit, positive outlook to be honored at annual race in North Park
- St. Athanasius center’s first coordinator hands duties over
- Ross commissioners divided on zoning appointment
- Shaler grad pens poems on time served in Vietnam
- Kean Quest Talent Search kicks off Feb. 6 on Richland stage
- Hampton senior turns potato chip bags into strapless dress
- Staff reshuffling fills library slots in Shaler Area schools
- Pay raises approved for Ross employees
- Former Seville school building on the market
- Bird-watchers count bevy of species in Hampton during annual event
- St. Barnabas, neurosurgeon team to battle dementia