11/1/07

No role for parents in ending teachers strike

Frustrated by a teachers strike, some parents of Seneca Valley students are trying to broker, or at least encourage, an end to the walkout before it enters a fourth week. "This has now become a matter of who's going to blink first. There are hundreds of parents who do not just want to sit around and wait for school to start in two weeks," said Ken Dash of Cranberry, the parent of two Seneca Valley students.

Dash held a meeting this week at his home with 18 residents of the district and four union negotiators. He and others are urging teachers to approve a state fact-finder's contract proposal released in August and rejected by the school board and teachers.

"It is an independent, unbiased, rational proposal with a solution to this," said Dash, who hopes the teachers will vote on the report before Monday's school board meeting, the first since the strike started. "The community would be behind them 100 percent if they did that," Dash said.

Such a vote by Monday is unlikely, said Patrick Andrekovich, a Seneca Valley teacher and chief negotiator for the union, who said there is not enough time to hold the required votes.

Teachers and the school board appear to be hardening their positions since the strike began Oct. 15. On Tuesday, for example, the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board issued a complaint based on a charge made by the teachers union of unfair labor practices.

Some residents are trying to encourage public discussion of any kind. Joe Scalamogna of Seven Fields, who is running unopposed for the school board in next week's election, said he would like to meet publicly with teachers and district residents.

"I am willing to do whatever it takes at this point. I am trying to be a peacemaker," he said.

School officials have offered a 4 percent raise for each year of a five-year contract.

The fact-finder's report recommended salary increases of 3.9 percent the first two years, 4.3 percent the third year and 4.7 percent in the contract's final two years. The report recommended higher co-payments and deductibles toward health insurance premiums, rather than flat contributions.

The teachers' unfair labor charge alleges that before the strike started, the district threatened to reduce retroactive pay in its contract offer if a strike occurred. The district has taken no such action.

The Labor Relations Board scheduled a Dec. 3 hearing on the complaint in Pittsburgh, said Christopher Manlove, a board spokesman.

(pittsburghlive.com)

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