Arbitration board sides with Shaler Area School District over teachers in salary dispute

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A board of arbitration has settled a dispute between the Shaler Area School District and the Shaler Area Education Association over salary increases for teachers.

The three-member board chose the school district’s offer, which raises most teachers salaries by about $200 every year through the 2015-16 school year. Teachers with greater seniority will receive larger increases.

“I feel a sense of relief that we can finally put the pieces of the puzzle together and move forward,” district superintendent Wesley Shipley said.

The district’s offer provided a $1,000 lump sum payment to teachers at the top of the scale at step 19 — the highest seniority grade for teachers — while the union’s offer gave those teachers a $1,000 raise in 2012-13.

For steps 1-18, the district’s offer gives no raises for the 2012-13 school year other than step increases — scheduled upgrades in seniority and salary for teachers.

The union’s offer would have given raises of $392 for teachers in steps 1-18.

Over the next three school years, the district’s offer is more generous to teachers at top of the scale, giving them $900 raises each year. The raises are smaller for teachers in steps 1-10 — $200 in 2013-14, $225 in 2014-15 and $225 in 2015-16. There are no raises for teachers in steps 11-18.

The union’s offer would have provided smaller raises for teachers at the top of the scale, with $350 in 2013-14, $250 in 2014-15 and $170 in 2015-16. For teachers in steps 1-18, the union proposed raises of $365 in 2013-14, $555 in 2014-15 and $458 in 2015-16.

The arbitration follows a strike by the teachers union in September, which delayed the first day of school for a week. The strike ended when the association reached an agreement with the district on health care contributions and workload.

“Any time there’s unrest in the organization you lead, you feel a sense of frustration,” Mr. Shipley said of the strikes. “It was a difficult time, but from the day they returned the teachers have been incredibly professional.”

As part of the agreement ending the strike, the two sides agreed to enter arbitration on the union’s request for raises.

The district and the education association each appointed one member to the arbitration board. The other member was the “impartial arbitrator” agreed on by both sides.

When it comes to negotiations to extend the contract past 2016, Suzanna Donahue, a member of the district’s school board, said, “I’m really hoping we have a better relationship before that happens, so we can have conversations and not be adversaries.”

Before the strike, the district’s teachers had been working without a new contract since August 2011. The agreement between the two sides is retroactive to that month and expires in August 2016.

Richard Webner: or 412-263-4903. First Published April 4, 2014 11:18 AM

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