Blackhawk faces community backlash after revoking contract with teachers

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More than a dozen union leaders, teachers, parents, students and taxpayers told the Blackhawk school board at a Thursday night meeting to reconsider revoking a contract with its teachers.

Less than a week ago, the board voted 6-2 to revoke a collective bargaining agreement that had been ratified 7-2 in September, citing concerns about its legality.

Since the board voted to break that agreement, an unfair labor practice charge was filed Thursday with the state Labor Relations Board, a representative from the Pennsylvania State Education Association, Kelly Compeau, told the board.

"Honor the contract, and obey the law," he said.

Board president Lance Rose said early in the meeting that the board would not entertain questions about the action, as it is "considered a legal issue and may become a matter of litigation."

Blackhawk Education Association president Jarrod McCowin spoke first and said in the current contract, teachers' salaries represent less than 35 percent of the budget, and in the contract effective July 1 through June 30, 2018, salaries represented less than 40 percent of the budget.

That's one of the lowest in Beaver County, Mr. Compeau said.

Acting superintendent Michael Thomas presented an analysis of the revoked contract, which the board said would be made available on the district's website today.

Mr. McCowin said at this point, teachers will keep teaching and wait to see how the board responds.

A standing-room only crowd of more than 200 people filled the high school's library for the scheduled voting meeting. The majority wore shades of green and cheered loudly during public comments, expressing their support of the teachers.

Among those who spoke, alumna and parent Leslie Benedetto implored her fellow taxpayers to band together and take action against the board.

"I say we find out what our rights are, and we end this," she said to applause.

Many thanked board members Paul Heckathorn and Richard Oswald, the two dissenting votes at Friday's meeting. Tory Aquino, Dean Fleischman, Kathy Helsing, Perry Pander, Mr. Rose and Ken Yonkee voted yes.

Mr. Rose said the special meeting, during which the board revoked the contract, was held at 5:30 p.m. Friday -- Valentine's Day -- to accommodate the schedule of district solicitor John Petrush.

He was not present Friday; all nine board members were in attendance.

In other business, the district's auditing firm, Cottrill, Arbutina and Associates, presented a report on district finances for the year ending June 30, 2013.

Lexi Belculfine:, 412-263-1878 or on Twitter @LexiBelc.

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