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Ligonier Valley reaches tentative deal with teachers

| Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, 10:29 a.m.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Ali Zambanini shows her support for members of the Ligonier Valley Education Association on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, during a demonstration outside the the school district administration building in Ligonier.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Joy Will of Ligonier, a parent of students in the Ligonier Valley School District, takes part in a demonstration on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, while while negotiators work to reach a tentative contract in the administration building in Ligonier.

The Ligonier Valley School District reached a tentative agreement with its teachers during contract negotiations Tuesday night.

Kim Dickert-Wallace, a school board member and spokeswoman, said board members will vote on the agreement on Monday.

The Ligonier Valley Education Association will do the same, according to spokeswoman Corinne Kenna.

Details of the agreement were not released.

Teachers, parents, students and alumni lined the sidewalk outside the district administration office in Ligonier to show support for the teachers, who have been working for 556 days without a contract.

They picketed from 4 to 5 p.m. as board members and representatives from the education association worked on a tentative agreement. A proposed settlement was reached at 6:30 p.m., Kenna said.

The union said in a statement that it has met with the board more than 20 times.

“I think the fact that we have gone 556 days without any disruption of education really proves that we don't want to strike,” Kenna said.

“The Ligonier Valley School Board is encouraged by the ongoing discussion with the teachers,” Dickert-Wallace said in a statement. “The board is looking forward to working towards an agreement that is mutually beneficial to the teachers, students and community.”

As passing motorists honked horns, Jen Kozusko, 32, the mother of a student, held a hand-painted sign with the Benjamin Franklin quote, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

“The sign says it all,” she said.

Kenna said more than 160 people were at the gathering at 4:30 p.m.

The main outstanding issues were “duration of contract and salary,” Kenna said

The negotiations have not affected students in the classroom, according to Kenna and middle school teacher Matt McNickle.

“We are professionals, and we're teachers because we care about education and we care about our students,” she said. “So when asked about our labor disputes we all say, ‘We really appreciate your concerns. ... Let's talk about English!' ”

“At no point did we allow this to be a discussion in the school setting,” McNickle said.

Adam Miller, 22, who graduated in 2010, said he stood in the cold to support his mother, Debbie Miller, a teacher at Laurel Valley Elementary.

“I know how hard my mom works every night and day for school,” he said. “She deserves to be paid for her work.”

Supporter Shelly Ulery, 58, said she and her children all graduated from the district.

“I think (the teachers) give a lot to the community and our children,” she said. “They go above and beyond, and I think it's important to support them.”

Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or nchynoweth@tribweb.com.

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