The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

April 18, 2014

Line Mountain board, teachers to talk Tuesday

By Justin Strawser
The Daily Item

— MANDATA — Line Mountain school board President Troy Laudenslager is far more optimistic this week than he has been as the board and the Line Mountain Education Association head into their first contract negotiation session in three months.

Despite the threat of a strike and the recent picketing of a school board meeting, Laudenslager believes there’s a willingness by both parties to negotiate and make progress Tuesday.

“We have a lot of information pooled together for the meeting. My expectation is that we’re going to be able to negotiate and have movement from both sides and get close to an agreement,” he said.

The district’s 99 teachers have been working under a five-year contract that expired June 30, 2011. On Sept. 30, the teachers established a work-to-rule policy in which they would not volunteer their services outside their contracted 7 1/2-hour day. Last month, they authorized an option to strike, and they also picketed the March 11 contract meeting.

Even though Laudenslager is optimistic, he said it wouldn’t surprise him if the union “announced a strike regardless of the quality of the discussion.”

On the other side, Mark McDade, Pennsylvania State Educational Association field service representative for district teachers, did not characterize the union’s position as optimistic.

“The board has truly not shown any good faith effort in negotiations,” he said. “We’ve been expecting a proposal since October. It’s now April, months later, and we’re still waiting.”

Laudenslager says the opposite, saying the teachers never responded to the board’s offer.

McDade said, “We look forward to receiving the board’s proposal that night. We will review it, and time permitting, we will counter.”

He compared the situation to the Danville district, where the teachers started striking Thursday.

“The community is now engaged, and they’re learning about the board’s disingenuous action,” McDade said. “We’ve had a lot of support. The constituents are disappointed.”

The board would rather “play politics,” he said.

“ It doesn’t get us closer to an agreement. It drives us farther apart,” he added.

Laudenslager said the threat of a strike has not influenced the negotiations.

The district’s negotiation team consists of directors Laudenslager, Lamont Masser, David Scott Bartholomew and Lauren Hackenburg. Their attorney is Ben Pratt, of CJA Lawfirm, York.

The April 22 regular board meeting was changed to April 29, in order to accommodate the negotiating session, which will be held at 6 p.m.