A group of 30 Wyoming Area School District teachers staged an informational picket before Tuesday's regular school board meeting, calling attention to the fact they've been working for three years under an expired contract.
All we're asking for is a fair contract, said Lisa Barrett, president of the Wyoming Area Education Association.
Teachers, in nearly freezing temperatures outside, held signs that read, Invest in your kids and teachers. Contract now! and No more excuses. Settle the contract now!
The last negotiation session was Dec. 20, 2012, and it included Superintendent Ray Bernardi, board member Frank Casarella and negotiator Jack Dean representing the district, said Barrett.
John Holland, a Regional Field Director for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, represented the union's 160 teachers in the five Wyoming Area schools.
Barrett made a brief statement to the board during its session. As the representative of the teachers union, she said, We'd like to settle a new contract with you.
Both Barrett and School Board President John Bolin said they couldn't go into details about specific issues.
We look forward to meeting and coming to an agreement, Bolin said. Other than that, I really can't say much.
He indicated Dean will be contacting Holland to set up a new session, but nothing has been finalized.
Barrett, a career technology teacher, said the contract expired on Aug. 31, 2010. When school started on Aug. 28, all the teachers were advanced a step.
The chart has 16 steps and columns that top education at a master's degree plus 60 credits.
We started negotiating in January of 2010 and we still don't have a contract, she said. It's very frustrating.
According to the union, the board has rejected several state mediator settlement proposals. The board requested a state fact-finder to issue a settlement report. After the report was issued, the board rejected it, the union said.
Mediators and fact-finders are neutral parties appointed by the state.
According to the flyer passed out at the picket, teachers have offered cost savings to help with salary and health care, but the board has rejected the offers.
In her brief statement to the board during public comments, Barrett said the union is prepared to meet as much as needed until a deal is hammered out.
But ultimately it's five votes on the board, she said.
We just need to get the board to sit down and negotiate.
A district resident questioned the negotiation process. He asked how many times the two groups had met.
We've met over 50 times, Barrett said.
When asked how many meetings had been held in the past year, she replied, Maybe a dozen.
In other business;
• District finance manager Tom Melone discussed the 2013-14 budget with the board.
He presented preliminary figures that included the state-allowed 2.3 percent increase in taxes.
He also projected figures for a 4.42 percent rise that includes a state-allowed exception due to increased retirement costs.
Even after raising taxes 4.42 percent, Melone projected that the district would have a deficit of more than a million dollars.
Board member Elizabeth Gober-Mangan asked Bernardi if the administration will present cuts.
He said he had presented proposed cuts in the past and will continue to do so.
• The board approved bids for about $2 million in renovations to the Montgomery Avenue Elementary School.
• Approved a change in the 2012-2013 school calendar. Wednesday, June 12, will be a makeup day for a snow day on Jan. 16.
• Approved the request of music teacher Leonarda Sperrazza for the chorus to sing the national anthem at a Penguins hockey game on the next night, Jan. 23.
Several board members questioned the cost of $315 toward purchasing tickets.
They said the chorus was volunteering its service and should be given free tickets to the game.