More than 100 Shaler Area School District teachers walked in front of the district administration building this morning on the union's first day on the picket line.
Melissa Ravas, president of the Shaler Area Education Association, said teachers will picket in three shifts today, the first starting at 7 a.m., the second at 10:30 a.m. and the third at 2 p.m.
"We hope to get a settlement and be done with this," she said.
Teachers made a loop in front of the building along Mount Royal Boulevard, some carrying signs that read "S.A.E.A. ON STRIKE NO CONTRACT NO WORK." Some people honked their horns as they drove by.
Shaler schools Superintendent Wesley Shipley agrees with the union on at least one point: "I think that everybody wants the dispute settled," he said by phone late this morning.
The salary scale for teachers and their contribution to health care costs are the major obstacles, as well as day-to-day working conditions and teacher workload, Ms. Ravas said.
She said on Monday the decision to strike was a last resort.
Mr. Shipley today said he couldn't go into specifics because of ongoing negotiations, but said there was a "substantial gap" between the parties with regard to salary.
He said it would be "shortsighted" not to consider the onus on taxpayers.
"You can't have a contract that would totally deplete [the district's] fund balance," he added.
Administrators have been assigned to each sport and activity and are acting as liaisons with booster organizations and associations, as needed.
Homecoming and district sports and activities will proceed as scheduled. A Friday home high school football game still is scheduled for play at Shaler, but the district has been keeping the opposing team's district apprised of the strike, Mr. Shipley said.
Striking teachers are not participating in extra-curricular activities, but the superintendent said the majority of coaches are not district teachers.
Contract talks are scheduled for Wednesday evening, next Monday and Sept. 16.
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.
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.
At this time the district is not making any plans for classes for seniors because officials believe they can get the 180 days in by the scheduled end of the school year, which is now set at June 13.
District officials said the last strike in the Shaler Area district was in 1997. The district is made up of the communities of Shaler, Reserve, Millvale and Etna.
The last teacher strikes in Allegheny County were in the fall of 2010 in Bethel Park, Moon Area and Allegheny Valley, according to records from the Pennsylvania State Teachers Association.
PSEA says Shaler is one of three districts in the state to go on strike today. The others are Wyoming Area in Exeter and Old Forge school district
First Published September 3, 2013 12:45 PM