EXETER — Contract negotiations began Tuesday for between the Wyoming Area School Board and the teachers union.
With the current contract set to expire Sept. 1, Tuesday marked the first of a set of meetings regarding teacher salaries, pensions and more.
“We did meet tonight,” district Solicitor Jarrett Ferentino said at the end of the monthly district board meeting. “We had a very good meeting. We’re scheduled to meet again next month. But I can report that the negotiations are ongoing and going well.”
The current contract came as a result of a month-long strike that occurred in 2013. At the time, contract negotiations had continued for about four years, finally resulting in the strike. When the contract was approved in 2014, it stretched from 2010 — when the old contract ended and negotiations began — until now.
At this time, district officials didn’t mention any knowledge of a strike.
But the teachers’ contract isn’t the only thing that’s changing at the district this year.
Back in April, school officials voted to close Sarah J. Dymond Elementary School and switch the remaining buildings within the district to a center-based model. This led parents located in the Harding and Falls areas to raise questions as to how their children will be transported to their new schools.
District transportation director Angelo Falzone said that roughly three transport vans will shuttle students who reside furthest out, with each van capable of seating nine students. He also added that the district has been working on adjusting the routes to ensure drivers are using the quickest routes possible to cut down on travel times.
Another big change is the recently revised dress code affecting grades 7-12, beginning this school year. The code allows solid colored pants and T-shirts, knee-length skirts and dresses, and polo shirts. It bans cargo pants and shorts, sweatpants, yoga pants, hoodies and graphic tees.
Sharon Sorokin addressed the board during the meeting, asking them to amend the new code to include district attire. She said that as a parent, she has purchased countless articles of clothing over the years supporting various Wyoming Area sports teams, clubs and fundraisers. Members in the audience added that if students can no longer wear the “spirit” clothes to school, they will no longer purchase them resulting in a loss of income for the various athletics and clubs that sell them.
“These shirts mean something to these kids,” she said. “If it’s a concern of it being low-cut, cropped or the sleeveless, then make it part of the policy that the sportswear can’t be altered. Let these kids represent their school.”
The board agreed to speak with the dress code committee to see if an amendment can be made.
The final change to the 2016-17 school year was the addition of a third principal in the secondary center — specifically a principal of discipline.
Board members filled the new position Tuesday, voting to hire Dave Pacchioni for the job. In June, the board agreed the total cost for the position would be $116,000 — a $65,000 base salary and $51,000 in benefits.
Secondary center English teacher Dennis Hando also attended the meeting, gaining a “green” thumbs up from audience and board members alike.
Hando is the supervisor for the Wyoming Area garden, a club which began in the spring of 2015.
Since then it has steadily grown, earning $5,000 in grant money from Wal-Mart as part of the National Farm-to-School Initiative. The district was one of 50 schools chosen nationwide, he said.
“We were able to buy a lot of materials we needed to expand,” he said. “Hopefully as we continue to expand, we will use more and more food in the actual cafeteria from our own garden.”
The club plants everything from tomatoes to watermelon, zucchini to bell peppers and donates its home-grown foods to local charities, including Meals on Wheels in Pittston and local soup kitchens. The goal of the club is to grow enough fruits and vegetables for the district to use in culinary classes and in the cafeteria for meals.
Hando brought an impressive wheelbarrow of vegetables with him to the meeting to show off, with many audience and board members taking some of the produce home.
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