The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

April 17, 2013

Warrior Run mom pleads for teachers, district to settle

By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item

— TURBOTVILLE — Hours after parents and community members marched in front of the Warrior Run High School and middle school, the debate surrounding teacher-contract negotiations continued at the school board meeting Monday night.

The meeting was standing-room only, according to Jennifer Meule, who attended the meeting and is the mother of a Watsontown Elementary School third-grader.

“Then a lot of people came in later and had to stand in the hallways,” she said.

Many of the parents in attendance were looking for clarity regarding the district’s request for fact-finding in the contract negotiations, Meule said.

“A lot of parents did not know what that meant,” she said. “The parents are being led to believe it’s a stall tactic, but the board said that it was absolutely not. ... There was a lot of clearing of the air.”

Negotiations had stalled because of differences over health care, salaries and hours, but resumed in January, with the Warrior Run Education Association dropping its “working to rule” status, which encouraged teachers not to arrive early for the school day and to not stay after classes end.

However, the union reinstated “working to rule” last week after the school board sought a state-appointed fact-finder to issue a report on negotiations, the school board said in a weekend press release.

“The board felt like it was still a stand-still,” Superintendent John Kurelja said Tuesday.

Many teachers walked out of Monday night’s meeting after becoming frustrated with the board’s stances, Meule said.

“It is very frustrating,” she said. “The teachers’ failure to listen calmly did not go over very well. They’re supposed to be leading by example.”

Representatives of the Warrior Run Education Association did not have a comment on the contract talks Tuesday.

Parents at the meeting expressed concerns about the impact the negotiations and the possibility of a September strike could have on students, Meule said.

The school is taking steps to ensure that seniors will be able to complete the 2013-14 school year on time, Kurelja said.

“We’re going to make sure (graduation) happens on time,” he said. “We’re certainly hoping that there is no strike, but we would be using our administrative staff to teach seniors until such time as the teachers (come back on the job).”

However, other students will not be in school in the event of a strike, Meule said, something that is frustrating for parents.

“I just don’t think that’s fair,” she said.

Meule said both parties need to sit down and come to a compromise sooner rather than later.

“They all need to lead by example and to commit to settle,” she said. “Nobody walks away from a compromise 100 percent happy.”