The Shaler Area school board and the Shaler Area Education Association met separately tonight to vote on an independent fact-finder's report regarding contract negotiations.
The school board unanimously accepted the fact-finder's report May 22. The teachers rejected the report on May 29. State regulations required both sides reconvene independently to reconsider and vote on the report, which was made public Fridayand posted at www.sasd.k12.pa.us/TeacherNegotiations1.aspx.
"We will be going back to the bargaining table if they don't vote in the affirmative this evening, and will continue to bargain over the summer months," James Giel, president of the Shaler Area school board, said at the close of a special meeting where a majority of the board again voted to accept the report.
At that time, it was still unknown how the Shaler Area Education Association voted at their own special meeting to reconsider the fact-finder's report. Earlier, their president, Melissa Ravas, a Shaler Area High School math teacher, said she did not expect the teachers' previous vote rejecting the report to change.
Act 88 is a Pennsylvania law designed to manage the collective bargaining process. The state labor relations board appoints an independent mediator during negotiations and a fact-finder when the district makes such a request after negotiations are unsuccessful.
Shaler teachers have been working without a new contract since August 2011.
Superintendent Wes Shipley said if the teachers still reject the report after their own June 6 meeting, and the teachers and district still cannot reach an agreement on the "last best offer," the teachers could legally strike. The "last best offer" is a combination of both fact-finder reports along with offers already made by SAEA and the administration.
The teachers voted to authorize their leadership to call a strike in November 2012, but never acted on it.
"It's so close to the end of the school year, I don't expect that to happen," Mr. Shipley said.
The last day for students in the Shaler Area School District is Thursday, June 13.
At Shaler Area, negotiations began in January 2011 and proceeded through Sept. 8, 2011. On Sept. 20, the district first requested fact-finding as a way to find a settlement.
That first report was issued on Oct. 31, 2011, but no agreement was reached between the district and its teachers and negotiations resumed on Dec. 20, 2011, and continued until March 26, 2013. At the end of that unsuccessful round, the district once again requested a fact-finder on April 10, 2013.
Fact-finder Michelle Miller-Kotula was appointed by the state, and the report was issued on May 20.
For salaries, Ms. Miller-Kotula recommended a wage and salary step freeze in the first year and raises of $775 a year at the top of the scale for the other three years and lower increases for others. Salaries at the top of the scale for a teacher with a masters degree would increase from $86,582 to $88,907.
For health insurance, the fact-finder recommended no change in cost for the first year. In year two, monthly payments would be $35 for individuals and $70 for families covered by an HMO and $65 per individual and $130 per family for a PPO plan. Those fees increase in year four to $50 and $150 for the HMO and $80 and $160 for the PPO plan.
The fact-finder rejected the teachers' request for a retirement incentive.
Rita Michel, freelance writer: email@example.com