Wyoming Area School Board pressured over teachers’ contract


First Posted: 2/27/2013

The pressure on the Wyoming Area School Board to settle a contract with the teachers union has increased and a recent advertisement in a regional newspaper put forth the union’s side of the story.

The school board quickly responded by posting its view of the stalemate on Wyoming Area’s district website.

It’s clear that both the school board and the teachers union want a fair contract. Tuesday night’s board meeting left attendees wondering how the two groups can reconcile differences in their expectations.

Before the meeting, teachers huddled under umbrellas in cold rain as they protested the lack of a contract.They are now working in their third year without a contract.

Their posters showed messages, including “Better Contract, Better Education,” “No More Excuses” and “Quality Education Our Children Deserve.”

District solicitor Jarrett Ferentino announced that the meeting had not been properly advertised and that no votes could be taken due to the Sunshine Law.

But there was plenty of discussion.

During the meeting, the union’s newly-elected president Melissa Dolman, an eighth-grade reading teacher at the Secondary Center, complained about the posting of the school board’s stand on the district’s website. She said teachers use that website in computer labs and it would interrupt the educational process to have to explain information on the website to students.

She said she understood the negitations were to be confidential.

“That line has been crossed,” she said.

District solicitor Jarrett Ferentino said the information on the website “was in response to the ad.”

Board member Frank Casarella, member of the negotiating team working on a teacher contract, said to Dolman, “The team has tried to work with your group. Get your group together and agree on what’s fair. I want to see what your union wants as a whole.”

The board contends that it has asked repeatedly for a full-day negotiation session. But at the last meeting of the two groups on Monday, board member Elizabeth Gober-Mangan, also a board member on the negotiating team, pointed out that the union would not set a date.

“It would have been nice to schedule something,” Gober-Mangan said. “It was like a slap in the face.”

One major disagreement between the union and the board has been over health care costs.

“We understand that paying for health care is a reality,” Dolman said, expressing optimism that negotiations for a contract will succeed.

There was a lengthy discussion about a new motion which had not appeared at last week’s work session.

The district has proposed the appointment of Quad Three Group Architects to design a new secure entrance vestibule for the Secondary Center.

The project has a preliminary budget of $100,000.

When questioned, district business manager Tom Melone explained that the funding for the project was available because some of the money for the Montgomery Avenue Renovation Project would not be used this year.

Superintendent Raymond Bernardi said the project had been proposed because of the findings of a school safety study.

Several board members, as well as residents, questioned the need for the project.

Casarella agreed that the project was important.

“This building is not as secure,” he said of the Secondary Center. “It makes sense to be pro-active in the area that’s most accessible.”

The board and the large audience gave a standing ovation to senior Gregory Cajka for many academic accomplishments.

He recently took first place in the Northeast Pennsylvania Brain Bee, a neuroscience competition. Cajka has been designated as a National Merit Finalist, one of the highest honors for American high school seniors. Only 15,000 finalists are chosen each year out of 1.5 million entrants.

Because no resolutions could be passed during the meeting, Ferentino announced an additional school board meeting has been scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5 at the Secondary Center.

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