2/15/08

State OKs no-vote teachers strike

There's talk of frustrated Cumberland Valley (PA) school teachers looking for new jobs. District parents, worried about a strike, are rethinking June vacations. And some district residents have grown so impatient with stalled contract talks that they suggest locking teachers and the school board in a room until they come up with a new labor agreement.

Things are heating up after a year of fruitless negotiating to reach terms that give the 500 teachers raises and keep property taxes in check. Now that the teachers union has given its negotiating team the power to call a strike without bringing it up for a union vote, the community is a collective bundle of nerves.

"This stalemate is unfair to the teachers, and it is not beneficial to the reputation of our school district, not to mention the impact on the students if a strike should occur," parent Michelle Marshall said in a letter to school board President John Jordan.

"Could someone please explain to me why you cannot meet in a room once a week until there is a resolution?" she asked.

Disgruntled residents are expected to flood Tuesday's 7 p.m. board meeting at Silver Spring Elementary School to demand an end to the deadlock.

Ken Shur, a board member and the chief negotiator, said he'll be ready.

"We'll have a public presentation on the board's position with additional facts," he said. Shur would not elaborate on new information that he'll furnish.

But teachers will compete for residents' attention with a 6 p.m. rally on Tuesday at the district administrative office, union spokesman Jay Foerster said.

He said teachers will attend the board meeting, too. At least a dozen teachers have gone to every meeting since last fall. Mostly, they observe, although they have given short talks on class activities.

Parents who support the teachers' contract proposal have been vocal. Equally outspoken are taxpayers who have told the board not to budge on its contract offer.

Jordan arranged to hold Tuesday's meeting in the Silver Spring gym after repeated standing-room-only turnouts at the district office. He said meetings will not return to the smaller office as long as contract talks elicit heavy community interest.

Not everyone wants to sound off about the stalled talks.

Retired state worker John Greecher of Hampden Twp. said his children are CV grads who were served well by district teachers. But he trusts the school board to make the right decision on contract offers.

"I don't see myself getting involved in it. These issues are more complicated than we can see from the outside. It really will work out," he said.

(pennlive.com)

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