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Greensburg Salem district avoids strike at 11th hour

Jacob Tierney
| Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, 9:06 a.m.
Greensburg City police officer Shawn Denning stops traffic on Main Street in Greensburg, as students from Greensburg Salem Middle School leave school after a strike was diverted, on Wednesday, Nov, 16, 2016.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Greensburg City police officer Shawn Denning stops traffic on Main Street in Greensburg, as students from Greensburg Salem Middle School leave school after a strike was diverted, on Wednesday, Nov, 16, 2016.
Greensburg City police officer Shawn Denning stops traffic on Main Street in Greensburg, as students from Greensburg Salem Middle School leave school after a strike was diverted, on Wednesday, Nov, 16, 2016.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Greensburg City police officer Shawn Denning stops traffic on Main Street in Greensburg, as students from Greensburg Salem Middle School leave school after a strike was diverted, on Wednesday, Nov, 16, 2016.

It was a normal school day Wednesday for students in the Greensburg Salem School District after a marathon negotiation session resulted in a tentative teachers contract, averting a looming strike.

Bargaining started at 6 p.m. Tuesday and ended at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, just hours before school was scheduled to begin.

“I feel both teams were extremely committed and focused on getting an agreement last night,” said Superintendent Eileen Amato. “I felt everyone really kept their eye on the ball; they were very persistent. I was very proud of both groups.”

At several points during the night, it appeared the sides had reached an impasse, but they kept finding bits of common ground they used to power through, school board President Ron Mellinger said.

“It worked out really well. I was happy. It didn't look good for a while, but we got something done,” Mellinger said.

The details of the agreement are being kept under wraps until both the school board and the teachers union have voted on it.

“Until both of their groups have reviewed it, we're not going to comment on it,” Amato said.

The school board will schedule a special meeting next week to vote, Mellinger said. The Greensburg Salem Education Association plans to hold its vote early next week, according to union President Matthew Sofran.

Sofran said he could not comment on the contract until it's been finalized.

Amato said she expects both groups to vote “yes.”

If they do, it will mark the end of nearly two years of negotiations.

Numerous previous bargaining sessions ended in an impasse. Teachers worked without a contract from July 2015 to March before agreeing to a one-year retroactive pay freeze. That expired in July, and the deadlock began again.

The Greensburg Salem Education Association represents 200 teachers, nurses and counselors.

“For the sake of our students, neither side really wanted a strike,” Amato said. “We're just happy that our students and staff are in school today, so we can focus on the education of our students.”

Mellinger said the contract represents a compromise that both sides can satisfy everyone, even if neither of them got all of what they wanted.

“I don't think either side is going to claim victory on it, but we both did the best that we could,” he said.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646.

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