Frustration grows as contract negotiations at Shaler Area yield no results
Dissatisfaction is mounting in the Shaler Area community as teachers continue to work under the terms of a contract that expired more than 560 days ago because the district and the Shaler Area Education Association, the collective bargaining unit, have not reached an agreement on a new contract.
Parents, taxpayers and teachers have filled the audience at the monthly school board voting meetings for the past three months to express their frustration and urge a resolution.
“This school district is an embarrassment,” said Chris Weaver, a Shaler Area parent, who was the lone speaker at the Feb. 20 meeting even though the Shaler Area Elementary School auditorium had close to 100 parents and teachers in attendance.
Weaver came to the podium to speak after the school board adjourned its meeting, but the board members gave him three minutes to talk. After school board President Jim Giel warned him his time was almost over, Weaver became more frustrated and dissatisfied with the district's response to his questioning the accuracy of the information distributed by the administration on the district's website regarding the negotiations.
“So you stalled me, like you stalled the union not to get a contract,” Weaver said as he left the podium and turned to the audience. “This is a disgrace that you would shut me down and not let me, a taxpayer, speak.”
Shaler Area teachers' have been working under the terms of the previous contract that expired Aug. 15, 2011. The Shaler Area Education Association and district officials have been meeting since January 2011 to negotiate a new contract.
The two sides met twice in January and an update posted by the administration on the district website quotes “modest” progress was made last month.
“Through the mediator, the district and teachers discussed several issues that remain on the table and they were able to make progress on some contract language,” the district's website update states. “While the progress is modest, the district is encouraged by the positive dialogue that was achieved during these negotiation sessions.”
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-hour notice, which Shaler Area teachers now can do at any time.
The next negotiation meeting is scheduled for today, Thursday, Feb. 28.
Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.