Teachers growing impatient in New Kensington-Arnold 573 days after contract expired
A 40-day gap in contract negotiations between New Kensington-Arnold School District and its teachers’ union seems to have increased frustration for both sides.
The negotiating teams from the school board and the New Kensington-Arnold Education Association last met Feb. 28, and the next session is not scheduled until April 11.
Reading a prepared statement at Thursday’s board meeting, union President Connie Vita said: “Time is of the essence. Our members have been waiting for a long time for a settled contract. We call upon the school board to offer a fair and equitable proposal that we can take back to our members for a vote.”
The teachers have been without a new contract for 573 days, the last one having expired in August 2017.
In the last contract, teacher salaries ranged from $45,400 to $75,700.
Superintendent John Pallone took offense to Vita’s statement, believing that she was trying to lay the cause of the delay in negotiations in the school board’s lap.
“We did not have a negotiating session because your team was not available,” Pallone said, asking that she not put out information that is untrue.
“That’s not true,” Vita shot back before board President Bob Pallone rapped his gavel on the table and cut off further discussion before asking for adjournment.
Afterward, both sides conceded that the delay was a mutual failure of both teams and their chief negotiators to work out a date and time for a session sooner than April 11.
Pallone said, on numerous dates discussed, getting both teams and its negotiators together did not happen because of other commitments on both sides.
Vita confirmed that was the case. She said there has been growing frustration among teachers.
“I wasn’t accusing him of anything; it was just that we weren’t getting together,” Vita said. “We just want to get it done — that was the whole idea of this.”
Vita would not discuss negotiation details, except to say that wages and health care benefits remain the main concern.
Even with the time that has lapsed between contract talks, union spokesman Phil Cope expressed optimism for progress.
“We would hope that, after this break in negotiations, there would be an opportunity to make some headway,” Cope said.
“We have to find that sweet spot, and that’s where we’re struggling,” Vita said.
Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter .