Teachers in Duquesne will go on strike on Monday

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While the 35 teachers in the Duquesne City School District walk the picket line outside school Monday morning, 369 students in grades K-6 are to be inside, supervised by administrators.

That's the plan being put forward by district administrators, who announced Friday afternoon that they will keep school open Monday and Tuesday -- the last two student school days of the year -- despite the teachers strike.

The district sent out a news release and notified parents on Friday that the teachers had called a strike but that the school would remain open with certified administrators supervising the students, transportation on a regular schedule, and breakfast and lunch served.

Dan Carey, Pennsylvania State Education Association field representative for the Duquesne teachers, said he gave notice of the strike on Friday afternoon when state-appointed receiver Paul Long declined to commit to entering arbitration to settle the 2-year-old contract dispute.

The last teachers contract expired in June 2012, and Mr. Carey said the two sides have been unable to settle because of Mr. Long's insistence that any future pay raises be tied to an increase in student achievement. The union has adamantly opposed the idea and was supported in its stance by a state fact-finder's report in April.

Mr. Carey said the strike was called to force the two sides into arbitration. He said under normal circumstances the district would be closed during a strike. Because state law requires the district to get in 180 days of school before June 15 in the event of a strike, teachers would have been ordered back to work by Friday and the law would have required the two sides to enter into mandatory arbitration.

But that plan fizzled when the district decided to hold classes without the teachers. Mr. Carey said it's possible the teachers will lose two days' pay during the strike.

Mr. Long said the teachers could salvage their pay by showing up for work Monday and Tuesday. "Even though notice has been given, we certainly hope that the Duquesne Education Association reconsiders and does not strike," Mr. Long said.

The next negotiating session is set for Monday afternoon.

Mary Niederberger: mniederberger@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1590. First Published June 6, 2014 3:55 PM

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