Shaler Area teachers to go on strike

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The two sides in the Shaler Area School District contract talks appear to remain far apart as teachers there enter their first day on the picket line today.

The faculty union and the school district were scheduled to negotiate Monday, but Melissa Ravas, president of the Shaler Area Education Association, said the union received no new offer.

"We've exhibited a great amount of restraint and patience, and that really hasn't gotten us anywhere," she said. "We came to the negotiating table [Monday] and expected the board to make a counter offer. They had nothing to offer."

But Shaler Area school board President James Giel Jr. disagreed with that assessment. "They haven't come back with a different proposal, either," he said.

The salary scale for teachers and their contribution to health care costs are the major obstacles, according to a statement posted on the district website last week.

"We're trying to get a fair and equitable settlement," Mr. Giel said. "I feel sad for our students, community and for our faculty that wants to come to work and teach those students."

The school board president said the offers to teachers are based on what the district can afford.

"We can't just take care of today. We have to take care of tomorrow, too," Mr. Giel said.

Ms. Ravas said the decision to strike is a last resort. The union, which represents about 390 teachers and other professionals, has been working under provisions of a contract that expired in the summer of 2011.

Contract talks are scheduled later this week and again the two following weeks.

"We're hoping the district will come with an offer," she said.

The union will remain on strike until it reaches an agreement or the state Department of Education orders teachers back to work so that students can attend 180 days of school by June 15.

Showing progress at the negotiating table won't be enough to get teachers back to work, Ms. Ravas said.

"At this point, we need a contract agreement," she said. "We've made progress before but then the district backs off."

Correction, Sept. 3, 2013: How long the teachers can remain on strike has been updated. An earlier version had inaccurate information.

education - neigh_north

Paula Reed Ward: or 412-263-2620. Ed Blazina: or 412-263-1470. First Published September 2, 2013 4:00 PM


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