Shaler Area, teachers union set to resume negotiations

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 9:04 p.m.

Shaler Area School District officials and the teachers union will return to the negotiations table after failing to both approve the fact-finder's report dated May 20.

On Thursday, June 6, the Shaler Area Education Association, which represents 380 teachers, rejected the report's recommendations for the second time. The school board unanimously approved the fact finder's report on May 22 and June 6; however, both parties were required under the state's Labor Relations Board policy to vote again after failing to both approve the report in the first vote last month.

“We will be going back to the bargaining table,” school board President James Giel said. “We will invite them back … and vigorously try to negotiate this contract over the summer months.”

Shaler Area teachers have been working under the terms of the previous contract since it expired Aug. 15, 2011, and union and district officials have been meeting since January 2011 to negotiate a new contract.

The May 20 fact-finder's report, as completed by state appointed fact-finder Michelle Miller-Kotula, is the second to be presented since negotiations started.

The first fact-finder's report was released on Oct. 31, 2011, and its recommendations were rejected by both the school district and the union. Only two fact-finder reports can be requested during the negotiation process under state guidelines.

Negotiations will continue as they have previously unless the union leadership calls a strike. In November, the Shaler Area Education Association voted to authorize the union leadership to call a strike. Under the state's collective-bargaining legislation, teachers are required to give 48-hour notice, which Shaler Area teachers now can do at any time.

Superintendent Wes Shipley said if the teachers do choose to strike, the negotiations will move to “last best offer arbitration,” at which time the district and union will state their cases in front of an arbitrator who also will have the fact-finder's report and would issue a nonbinding settlement.

The rejected fact-finder's report recommended a four-year contract, which would have been effective retroactively to the 2011-12 school year and proposed a wage and salary step freeze in year one of the contract, which runs through the 2014-15 school year.

Employees move horizontally and vertically through a matrix of salary steps, which include pay increases, each year based on teaching experience and education.

The fact-finder's recommendation included a step movement after the first year of the contract and a $775 addition to step 19, the highest step, in years two through four of the contract. The report also recommended a $375 addition to steps one to 10 only in year three, the 2013-14 school year. The supplemental salaries, provided for coaches and activity sponsors, increased by 1, 1.25 and 1.5 percent respectively in year two, three and four of the contract.

The fact-finder's report recommended that the monthly health-insurance contribution rates increase from $20 and $40 for an individual and family, respectively; to $35 and $70 in year two for a health-maintenance organization, or HMO, plan; and up to $50 and $100 in year four of the contract period.

The recommendations also included increasing the teachers' work day, which ranges from five to six periods across the district, to six periods for all teachers, with two preparation periods.

Shipley said the recommendation would allow for more flexibility in scheduling, smaller class sizes and “more face time” between teachers and students as they prepare for the state Keystone Exams, required for graduation and used to evaluate school-district performance.

Melissa Ravas, Shaler Area Education Association president, said while there were some aspects of the fact-finder's report that the union felt it could work with, “the ‘package' as a whole was unacceptable.”

“We are prepared to return to the bargaining table and continue with the negotiations process in an effort to reach a deal that is acceptable to our members and good for the students of Shaler Area,” Ravas said.

The complete text of the fact-finder's report and salary step matrix is available on the district's website at TeacherNegotiations1.aspx.

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

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