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Mt. Pleasant Area teachers to urge school board to support contract recommendations | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Mt. Pleasant Area teachers to urge school board to support contract recommendations

Jamie Martines
| Saturday, November 10, 2018 1:36 a.m
425210MtPleasantAreaJuniorSeniorHighSchool
Mt. Pleasant Area Junior-Senior High School

A large contingent of teachers from the Mt. Pleasant Area School District are expected to attend Monday’s school board meeting in an effort to move contract negotiations forward.

The contract between the district and the Mt. Pleasant Area Education Association — which represents 143 teachers, counselors, nurses and school psychologists — expired in August.

Salaries and health benefits, as well as issues related to sick day donation and classroom supplies, are among the major sticking points. The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board appointed a fact finder in mid-September to review the proposals after negotiations stalled.

Fact finders are intended to act as a neutral party that offer recommendations based on “the interest and welfare of taxpayers and the ability of the employer to finance and administer the issues proposed,” according to the report, which was issued Oct. 22 and is available online at the state Labor Relations Board website.

The school board voted to reject the 56-page report during a special meeting Oct. 25.

“The problem with the fact finding thing was that it was done with the teachers getting everything and the school getting nothing,” said John Sarnese, school board president. “The fact finder’s report was very biased.”

The union remains optimistic and hopes to settle with the board, said Terri Remaley, president of the Mt. Pleasant Area Education Association. Remaley called the fact finder’s report “fair and equitable.”

“The association didn’t get everything we had asked for, and the board didn’t get everything they had asked for,” Remaley said. “At this point, we’re just waiting to see what the board’s vote is going to be on Monday.”

Remaley declined to comment further, other than to say that the union wants to stay positive.

The report reviewed 34 contract items. The fact finder recommended the union’s proposal on 17 items and the board’s proposal on four. The fact finder recommended no change to the current contract language on 10 items and offered specific guidance on three items — salaries, tuition reimbursement for teachers’ continuing education and language blended learning opportunities.

After 10 days of consideration, the education association accepted the fact finder’s report, according to a statement from the union. They’re now asking the board to reconsider its decision. The board next meets at 7 p.m. Monday in the district administration building board room, 271 State St., Mt. Pleasant.

The union opposes an increase in health insurance payments and deductibles along with a proposed salary freeze, which would be followed by a less than 1 percent raise for the remainder of a teacher’s contract.

The union also seek to preserve a sick day donation program, which allows union members to donate sick days to colleagues in the event of an emergency. Practical matters, like purchasing sufficient school supplies for classrooms and bathroom breaks for elementary school teachers, also are being debated.

The board is pushing to extend the teacher workday from 7.5 hours to 8 hours per day and takes issue with requests for salary increases, Sarnese said.

There was also a dispute over including the Pennsylvania State Education Association and the National Education Association, state and national branches of the union, in the district’s contract with the local union chapter.

“Those guys have no skin in the game whatsoever,” Sarnese said of the state and national organizations. The board is willing to work with the local education association, he said.

The board also opposes signing a seven-year contract with the union, Sarnese said.

“We’re not against teachers,” Sarnese said. “We just want to get a good contract.”

Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, jmartines@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Jamie_Martines.

Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff reporter. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, jmartines@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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