The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Montour County

March 31, 2014

Danville Education Association sues school board as sides plan more teacher contract talks

DANVILLE — An unfair labor practice charge has been filed against the Danville school board, according to the Danville Education Association president.

The DEA alleges that the school board violated Act 195 and Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act by publicly revealing the district’s most recent contract offer to the teacher’s union at the board’s March 25 meeting, according to Dave Fortunato.

The DEA scheduled a strike for April 17, following unsuccessful contract negotiations with the school board.

“It is unfortunate that the school board is violating Pennsylvania law by bargaining in public to try to win favor with the public,” Fortunato wrote in a press release announcing the suit. “The Board’s action only further illustrates that the school board is more interested in employing bad faith bargaining tactics than rolling up their sleeves and hammering out a deal with us.”

The release also accuses the board of trying to take attention away from a report submitted last year by a state-appointed fact finder, which suggested a series of salary increases for the teachers. The board rejected the report as financially unfeasible.

In the press release, Mark McDade, PSEA labor representative for Danville’s teachers, said the teacher’s contract proposal was for “significantly less than what the fact-finder recommended.”

Fortunato first accused the board of violating labor laws during their March 25 meeting, during a public comment section following the board’s reveal of their contract proposal.

Fortunato is not ashamed of the contract revealed by the district, but the board’s actions violated labor laws.

The four-year proposal shown by the board at their March 25 meeting included a wage increase of 8.26 percent, or $837,757, spread across the DEA’s 190 members and a 23.72 percent, or $3.34 million, increase for the total wages and benefits of the members.

The contract would have taken effect retroactively from 2012 and would have lasted through 2016.

Discussing the proposal’s reveal, school board President Allan Schappert said Sunday the board cleared the matter “several times” with their attorneys.

The DEA filing the suit “doesn’t exactly set the tone or intent to reach a settlement and I’m guessing this won’t play out very well in public opinion,” Schappert said.

A negotiation session has been scheduled for April 16, a day before the strike. The school board recently requested additional negotiation dates from the DEA ahead of that time. Fortunato said the teachers would be happy to negotiate further.

“We are absolutely working on it,” he said, adding that the DEA was ironing out final details and times. “Both sides are working on it. We do not want the strike but we are left with no alternative.”

Email comments to rstoneback@thedanvillenews.com.

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