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Shaler Area teachers continue to work without a contract

| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

Many teachers and community members continue to voice concerns and dissatisfaction that the Shaler Area teachers are working under the terms of an expired contract.

Teachers have been working without a new contract since Aug. 15, 2011, and the Shaler Area Education Association, the collective bargaining unit, and district officials have been meeting since January 2011 to negotiate a new contract.

Parent Chris Weaver attended the board meeting last week with concerns including the amount of money in the district's fund balance, the average millage increases and the teacher salaries.

“Is the lack of rising millage taking precedence over funding?” Weaver said.

Weaver said if the board can't afford to pay the teachers a better salary the district will “lose teachers and families to better-paying districts.”

After school board President Jim Giel stopped Weaver in accordance with the newly-imposed three-minute time limit for public speakers, Weaver said “in the letter you said you'd be glad to answer all questions,” referring to the November 2012 district letter posted on the website.

“False claims,” Weaver said as he left the podium.

Parent Jeanne Ehrenberger also echoed Weaver's sentiments in favor of better teacher salaries. Ehrenberger argued that Shaler Area had not even made it in the top 50 western Pennsylvania school districts in the Pittsburgh Business Times 2012 report and claimed that Shaler Area's starting salary was among the lowest in Allegheny County.

“Teacher salary scales help attract the best teachers and retain the best teachers,” she said. “Shouldn't we do something to be competitive with other school districts?”

According to a November 2011 fact finder report, the Shaler Area Education Association asked for a 1.5 percent increase to the salary schedule which provides teachers with a 2 percent to 7.5 percent salary increase each year.

“Our plan is to be financially prudent and pay our teachers a salary we can afford,” Giel said. “Teachers, in the salary scale, get an almost 3 percent (increase) just going through the steps.”

Negotiations continue between the district and teachers negotiations teams. The two sides most recently met on March 26.

Following the March 11 negotiations meeting, an update on the district website states the district and teacher's union bargaining teams “were able to secure formal agreements on some of the issues that were on the table.”

The two sides continue to use a mediator who delivers proposals between the two sides, however the teams also met at the table to exchanged proposals and clarified their positions, according to the website update.

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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