Shaler Area students, parents raise contract concerns

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About 50 Shaler Area High School students and parents raised concerns with the school board Wednesday night about teachers choosing not to supervise after-school activities and events because of contentious contract talks.

"We're not here to pick sides or tell you how to do your job," senior Collin Ziegler told the board, "but we were never told our activities were in danger until we heard our homecoming was almost canceled."

The students and parents said that many extracurricular activities could be curtailed or cut altogether if the teachers continue to not volunteer for the extra work or perform duties that are reimbursed by a set stipend.

School officials and parent groups have scrambled to make sure homecoming takes place as planned this weekend, they said.

But the students said they've been told honors jazz band auditions, various school trips and even the letters of recommendation for seniors applying for college will not get done because some teachers are choosing not to.

"We decided to show up," Collin told the board, "to let you know that now we're being hurt."

District teachers have been working without a contract since August 2011.

Board President James Giel told the students the board was unaware of the teachers' actions until recently.

"We were taken aback just like you," he said.

The teachers union has said that those teachers who made commitments to sports or activities for this season will honor those commitments.

The school board recommended that parents get necessary state and federal background clearances to take the teachers' places at activities and events.

Mr. Giel said the board members are already getting their clearances so they can volunteer and make sure district activities go on as planned. The district, he stated, will pay for parents to get clearances as well.

"Activities are the other half of our education," another student told the board. "We care for our teachers, but we're not here advocating for the teachers. We're here for ourselves. Our activities are very important to us."

Parents, as well, voiced their dismay.

Scott Harris, the father of a seventh-grader and a junior, told the board that during curriculum night at the middle school, teachers told parents that events were going to be canceled because they would not be volunteering anymore.

"We would not have such a great school district if parents and teachers didn't volunteer," he said.

He was concerned, he said, that the traditional seventh-grade spring trip to Washington, D.C. would be canceled.

"These kids are panicking. I could only imagine not getting help my senior year. I'm ashamed of teachers for doing that," Mr. Harris said.

One senior student asked if the prom is in danger of being canceled.

"I am not going to let anybody ruin any child's senior year," Mr. Giel assured the students. "This board is here for the kids."

education - breaking - neigh_north

Rita Michel, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com. First Published October 11, 2012 12:00 AM


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