Shaler Area board, teachers set to reconsider fact-finder's report

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Increases in teachers' workloads and higher payments toward health care were the main reasons Shaler Area Education Association members voted to reject a fact-finder's report, according to union representatives.

"The fact-finder's report was heavily in favor of the district's position," said Melissa Ravas, president of the teachers union and a math teacher at Shaler Area High School. She added that increased health care contributions combined with the proposed salary increase just did not make good sense to the membership. "Our most senior teachers would walk away with just over $400 of a raise after paying the additional health care."

Also, the increased workload -- asking primarily secondary teachers to take on more classes -- did not come with a guarantee the district would not further reduce its workforce.

"Anytime you ask someone to take on more work, you'd think they'd give you something for it," Mrs. Ravas. The association represents about 390 teachers. She said the district has cut about 30 teachers in fewer than five years.

The teachers' rejection of the report has prompted a special school board meeting at 7:30 tonight. Directors now must reconsider the report, which they unanimously accepted May 22.

The teachers union also will reconsider the report today.

Mrs. Ravas does not expect a different outcome at tonight's meeting.

"Our recommendation won't change," she said. "I don't think people's opinions will change."

The process set by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board requires both sides to vote to reconsider the report. The reconsideration must occur not fewer than five nor more than 10 days after the public release of the fact-finder's report, which was made public Friday and posted at www.sasd.k12.pa.us/TeacherNegotiations1.aspx.

If both parties do not agree to accept the recommendations of the fact-finder, they will return to the bargaining table to continue the negotiation process.

If the report is rejected, it would mark the second time since contract negotiations began that a fact-finder's report has been rejected by one or both parties.

The last one was rejected by both groups in November 2012.

On Nov. 19, the teachers' union authorized their leadership to call a strike. Under Act 88, a 48-hour notice of a strike must be sent to the district.

The last day of school is next Thursday. If no agreement is reached by then, it will be the second school year without a labor contract.

"It's very draining on everyone," Mrs. Ravas said. "We were hoping for more from the report, that some of their issues would be included with some of ours, but that isn't how it worked out."

This latest fact-finder, Michelle Miller Kotula, was assigned to the district by the state labor relations board in May 2013.

Since December, three negotiating sessions have been held with a state mediator present: Dec. 7, Jan. 25 and March 12.

education - neigh_north

Rita Michel, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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