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Valley News Dispatch

Newly seated Deer Lakes School Board says new teacher pact is top priority

| Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, 3:45 p.m.

Now that a new Deer Lakes school board president and three new members have been seated, the first order of business is to get a new teachers contract.

Bill LuPone, the new school board president, and teachers union President Kevin Cochran both said Tuesday night they would like to get a negotiating session in before Christmas.

The teachers have been working without a contract since June 30. Negotiations broke off Nov. 21, when some thought a deal was close.

At a school board meeting that night, both parties said they would wait until a new school board was seated before scheduling a negotiation.

Tuesday night, District Judge Thomas Swan swore in newly elected Directors Eric Bieniek, Vic Laurenza Jr. and Kristi Minnick. Incumbent Phillip Zendarski was sworn in for a new four-year term.

“We'll let the new board get situated first, but we'd like to have a negotiation session before Christmas,” Cochran said.

“I'd like to get a session,” LuPone said. “I have to get a new negotiating team together.”

Bieniek said his immediate goals involve focusing on the students.

“You can never go wrong keeping the kids first,” Bieniek said. “That's the best situation that can be.”

Laurenza has attended school board meetings for some time.

“I've attended meetings for years and have learned a lot,” Laurenza said. “I encourage all stakeholders to come to the meetings, and I'd like to hit the ground running.”

Minnick has been a school district resident since 1999.

“I want to do what's right for the children,” said Minnick, who has a third-grader in the district. “I have a corporate background in IT, and I see the school district on the right trajectory.”

LuPone was elected school board president in a 5-4 vote.

Voting for LuPone were himself, Louis Buck, Laurenza, Bieniek and Minnick.

Voting for Torick were himself, Zen­darski, Jodi Banyas-Galecki and Leanna Shurina.

Buck was elected, 5-4, over Torick as vice president. The same five who voted for LuPone also voted for Buck, and the same four voted for Torick.

Laurenza was also voted school board treasurer by a 5-4 vote over Torick. Those voting for Laurenza were the same five who voted for Buck and LuPone, and the same four voted for Torick.

Torick was reappointed as school board liaison to the A.W. Beattie Career Center. A second board liaison will be chosen later.

The school board voted unanimously to reappoint Solicitor Raymond Sekula.

Sekula's hourly rate will be $125, and he will be on a $500 monthly retainer.

The school board's agenda meetings in 2018 will continue to be held the second Tuesday of the month, and regular meetings will be held the third Tuesday.

There are no other school board meetings scheduled this month.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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