Midd-West High School

Midd-West High in Middleburg is shown in this undated file photo.

MIDDLEBURG - The Midd-West School District's bargaining committee remains firm in its intent to continue negotiating with the Midd-West Education Association, despite the faculty's recent vote to authorize a strike and claims that union members had urged that some incumbent board candidates not be reelected.

Following a Friday evening meeting between the committee, composed of board president Victor Abate and directors Sherryl Wagner, Ronald Hoffman and Shawn Sassaman, as well as Superintendent Rick Musselman and district solicitor Orris Knepp III, met to discuss the teacher's surprising vote and put together a response.

"We are professionals," said Abate, of the committee's expectation that a strike will be averted and negotiations will resume. "Negotiations are not at an impasse

The following is the committee's prepared statement:

On Friday Nov. 13 the Midd-West Education Association went to the media to announce that on Monday Nov. 9, its members had voted to strike.

There are a number of things the taxpayers of the Midd-West School District need to know about this announcement. First, prior to the media contacting representatives of the Midd-West School District’s negotiating committee, no one from or on behalf of the teacher’s union had told anyone from the district about this vote, despite the fact that members of the teacher’s union’s leadership team were in attendance at the board meeting on Monday, Nov. 9 after the vote was taken. The next thing the taxpayers should know is that this is not the first time Chris Snyder, the president of the teachers’ union, has made statements to the press about the current round of negotiations. In fact, the mediator appointed to monitor the negotiations by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board had previously instructed Mr. Snyder not to do it again. Apparently, that instruction was either forgotten or ignored.

Mr. Snyder also told the media last week that the vote was taken because the district’s solicitor had not returned emails or telephone calls since July and that had caused negotiations to stall. This is simply untrue. Here are the relevant facts:

Between March of 2015 and June 28, 2015, the district and the teacher’s union met six times, including three meetings in June. During the first five of these six meetings the parties discussed and refined the terms of a healthcare coverage plan which would save the district’s taxpayers substantial money and still provide full healthcare coverage to the union’s members and their families. At the last of these six meetings (on) June 28, the teachers’ union announced that it decided to reject all of the prior work the parties had put into healthcare coverage and wages. The teachers’ union then made a counter proposal, which was almost identical to the proposal the teachers’ union had made in November 2014, which included a low deductible health insurance plan and yearly raises from between $900 to $1900 a year with additional pay raises for step movement. The district believes that this is what is called regressive bargaining and it was not done in good faith.

On July 30, another bargaining meeting was held at which time the teachers’ union was told by the District’s committee that as a result of what the teachers’ union had done on June 28, the district was going to have to start over and gather new information on healthcare coverage before it could come back to the bargaining table.

On August 10, the district’s solicitor contacted the teachers’ union’s representative via email and the parties scheduled a meeting for September 10.

On September 7, the district’s solicitor contacted the teachers’ union’s representative via email and informed him that the meeting on September 10 would need to be postponed, as the district’s bargaining committee was meeting with a representative of a new potential health insurance provider on September 14, and the information from that meeting would be needed to continue negotiations.

On September 25, the district’s solicitor contacted the teachers’ union’s representative via email to update him regarding the district’s gathering of information on a new healthcare provider. The teacher’s union’s representative was also told that the district was waiting on data from its current healthcare provider, which was to be supplied by September 29, so that it could be analyzed and a decision made on future healthcare coverage providers.

On October 1, the district’s solicitor emailed Mr. Snyder as well to update him on the status of the district’s progress on healthcare coverage providers. Mr. Snyder was also told in this email that new bargaining dates would be set once the healthcare coverage provider issue was resolved.

On October 26, Sherryl Wagner, the chair of the district’s negotiating committee, announced during a board meeting that the district had made substantial progress in finding a new healthcare coverage provider. It is noteworthy that Mr. Snyder was present when this announcement was made.

On November 2, teachers’ union members placed sample ballots in the faculty rooms in three of the district’s four schools. Those ballots asked that certain board members, some of whom coincidentally are members of the negotiating committee, not be voted for because they were not strong supporters of education in the Midd-West School District. The district feels this act was an unfair labor practice, which is prohibited by law. Additionally, no one, not a member of the public nor an employee of the district, is permitted to hand out political materials in the schools of the Midd-West School District because the Board’s long held belief that schools should be centers of learning and not used as soap boxes for political candidates or political causes.

On November 4, 2015, the District’s solicitor received an email asking to set dates for bargaining. As this request came within forty-eight hours of the District discovering that the teachers’ union had engaged in what is felt to be an unfair labor practice and such had created an environment which was not good for productive negotiations, the District’s bargaining committee decided it was prudent to wait to set new meeting dates until after the Board votes on leaving its current healthcare coverage provider.

On November 9, Mrs. Wagner, asked that a motion to leave the current healthcare provider be placed on the agenda of the voting meeting scheduled for November 23. As stated above, the teacher’s union’s leadership team, including Mr. Snyder, was present and heard this request.

The Midd-West School District’s bargaining committee has never left the bargaining table.

Negotiations are not at an impasse.

The taxpayers of the Midd-West School district should be aware that the parties had both recently voted to continue bargaining. This is why the Midd-West School District’s bargaining committee is puzzled by the public announcement by union leadership that a vote had been taken to strike and it has to question the motive behind doing such. The district also wants to let parents of its students know that the district has every intent and the desire to continue to educate and safeguard students without interruption and regrets any concern the statements of the teachers’ union may have caused them.

The Midd-West School District’s bargaining committee will continue to move forward to reach an agreement that is both fair to the professional employees of the Midd-West School District and the taxpayers living in the Midd-West School District. In short, old school scare tactics meant to garner sympathy and cause an outcry from the public will not stop the Midd-West School District’s bargaining committee from doing its job during these negotiations.