First Posted: 9/19/2013
Talks are set.
A lawyer representing the Wyoming Area teachers will meet with a district lawyer on Tuesday, it was announced at the school board’s monthly work session Tuesday night.
The teachers’ union has been on strike since Sept. 3 and the two side haven’t sat down since talks broke down on Aug. 29. The teachers’ contract expired in August 2010 and sides havn’t been able to come to an agreement since then.
Jack Dean, the board’s attorney handling bargaining arrangements, said Wyoming Area Education Association attorney John Holland suggested Tuesday for the meeting and he agreed.
The session is on the same day as the school board’s regular monthly meeting.
“I am confident,” Dean said. “Mr. Holland and I have a professional relationship. Our goal is to reach a fair contract.”
Holland said he and Dean will meet with independent mediator Jack Yanchulis from the state Department of Labor’s Bureau of Mediation at the union headquarters on State Route 315 in Plains Township. “It could be a long meeting, it could be a short meeting,” Holland said.
“We’re closer than most people think,” Holland said. “The only real issue is salary.”
By state law, the strike can last until it endangers the district’s ability to complete 180 days of school by June 15, at which point the state would seek a court injunction forcing teachers to return to work. The teachers must return to class on Oct. 4.
The union can strike a second time, but that strike must end in time to complete 180 days by June 30.
A principal sticking point is pay with a focus on what happens retroactively for the 2011-12 school year. The union charges the board is shuffling the same money around over the course of its proposed six-year contract, without offering any actual changes in salary raises during recent negotiations.
At the meeting, one teacher’s spouse spoke against the board’s ignorance of an employee’s right to earned pay raises. Others in attendance urged board members to hold their ground and not give in to demands of the union.
John Pegg, of West Wyoming, told the board that, by his calculations, the district’s general fund budget is headed for a negative balance and any agreement should be based on turning that around.
“Any proposal, I don’t care from what side — union, district — it has to be fiscally responsible,” Pegg said. “What we’re trying to accomplish here is to keep the students learning.”
A teacher strike’s impact can adversely affect seniors by putting college acceptance and funding at risk.
Advanced placement courses, designed to challenge students at a college level and considered favorably in college application screenings, have one immutable test date. If the strike lasts the full month that it legally can, students will be at a huge disadvantage in trying to master the material in time to score well, students have said.
Reporters Mark Guydish and Jon O’Connell contributed to this report.