The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Valley

April 23, 2014

Line Mountain contract meeting went well

— MANDATA — The relationship between the school board and teachers at Line Mountain has been ugly in the last school year, but new hope was breathed into the two parties after Tuesday’s negotiating session.

While no new deal was reached after the three-hour meeting, both Mark McDade, Pennsylvania State Educational Association PSEA’s field service representative for the district’s 99 teachers, and board President Troy Laudenslager said they were pleased with the progress when contacted Wednesday.

“We found the bargaining session to be both productive and professional by both parties,” McDade said.

Board President Troy Laudenslager agreed.

“It went pretty well. It was a positive meeting and both sides are moving forward,” he said.

It was a “good surprise” after some of the negativity in the past year, Laudenslager said.

The teachers in the Line Mountain Education Association have been working without a contract since June 30, 2012, which was a one-year extension to a five-year contract.

Last month, the teachers authorized an option to strike, and they also picketed the March 11 regular meeting. They have also been working to rule since Sept. 30, which means they will not volunteer their services outside their contracted 7 and a half hour day.

However, despite the positive nature of the meeting, McDade said the teachers are still creating a strike plan to be used as a last resort.

“You need to have a plan,” he said. “There’s a lot of logistics. Teachers are planners. We do our homework.”

Details include where picket lines will be, where the strike headquarters will be located and who the strike captains will be, McDade said.

“Hopefully, of course, they won’t need to implement it. We’re not there yet, but last night was encouraging. We will hopefully use that momentum to finalize a deal,” he said.

Laudenslager reserved further comment.

‘Improve working conditions’

In addition to salaries and benefits, McDade said the teachers are negotiating for more preparation time for lesson plans and evaluations.

“The teachers have not had a raise in three years and have not had any opportunities for professional growth,” he said. “The current position of the teachers is fair, affordable and reasonable.”

The teachers are attempting to work with the district to “improve upon the working conditions,” McDade said. “If the teachers are successful, the students are successful. When everyone is working in tandem, that’s what makes a successful school.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board presented a proposal, and the union reviewed it that same night and presented its own counter proposal.

The board is scheduled to respond to the teacher’s latest proposal at the next negotiating session on Monday, May 12.

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