More transparent negotiations may be the result of the community's cry for fairness for all involved in contract discussions between Shaler Area School District and its teachers union.
Parents, teachers, retired residents and students nearly filled the Shaler Area Middle School auditorium Wednesday night. The December school board meeting was moved to the auditorium once administrators learned of the appeal planned by students and their parents and neighbors. The plea was sparked by the Shaler Area Education Association's public notification that its members authorized their leadership to call a strike if an agreement isn't soon reached. The teachers have been working without a contract since August 2011.
Once the business portion of the meeting was completed, district residents from all of Shaler Area's neighborhoods came forward in the next hour with heartfelt support for their children's teachers. Class sizes are too big, several said. Others disliked, Campbell and Durrant, the lawyers hired to represent the district at negotiations. Some objected to the cost while others pointed out they were the group representing other districts where teachers went on strike in the past.
Several citizens asked why school board members haven't taken part in negotiations.
Board president James Giel responded that currently board members can't participate in contract talks. The district, he explained, is represented by three administrators and the teachers' union is served by five teachers and a representative from the state education association. Both sides often sit in separate rooms, sending a mediator with any agreements. "That's just normal practice," he said. To open up talks to board members, he said, both sides would have to agree to it.
That could happen as soon as Thursday night. Both sides are set to meet at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 6 to continue negotiations.