Mars teachers authorize strike option

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Members of the Mars Area Education Association have authorized their negotiating team to call a strike if negotiations break down.

The district is currently negotiating with its teachers and support staff unions, whose contracts expired June 30.

Mark Lewandowski, a teacher on the negotiating committee, told school board members at Tuesday's work session that teachers took the strike vote Saturday.

The support staff was not included in the strike vote.

The teachers' union negotiators have met five times with Superintendent William Pettigrew and Business Manager Jill Swaney. Beginning Oct. 10, negotiations become more formal with Solicitor Tom King and board members joining the discussion.

"The association is committed to resolving these contract negotiations. We want to see real change on Oct. 10th," Mr. Lewandowski said. "We also want to see the commitment from this board to negotiate with numerous meetings, not just one a month or one a week. We should meet every day, every hour, until we get this thing solved."

Mr. King said negotiators will "increase the frequency" of meetings and that a state mediator will be available as well.

The next negotiating session with the union representing support staff is scheduled for Oct. 23.

"At this point, we are very, very far apart with respect to those negotiations," Mr. King said. "There needs to be a lot of work."

The district has received proposals from firms to outsource the support positions, including secretaries, paraprofessionals and custodians. Outsourcing will save $2.4 million the first two years, Mr. King said, and negotiations have centered around those savings. education - neigh_north


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