Strike still planned after CASD board, union make compromises at last negotiation

Written by Ashley Books/The Chambersburg Public Opinion | Nov 8, 2017 6:44 PM

Chambersburg Area Education Association, a teacher's union, carry signs outside the Chambersburg Area School District meeting on Tuesday evening, September 26, 2017. CAEA, currently without a contract, held the rally prior to the CASD meeting. (Photo: Markell DeLoatch, Public Opinion)

(Chambersburg) - The Chambersburg Area school board and the Chambersburg Area Education Association were able to compromise on several issues during Tuesday night's contract negotiations, according to both sides, as they continue to work toward a tentative agreement to avoid a potential teacher strike on Nov. 13. 

The union, which represents about 550 teachers, and the board have been discussing a new contact since January. Teachers are working under the terms of the previous contract, which expired at the end of June.

During the Tuesday meeting, the board responded to a counter proposal given by the union at the Oct. 30 meeting.

The union and the school board have swapped proposals several times, and compromises have been made. The details of the most current proposal on the table are not being released. 

However, the union previously offered to take lower salary increases and to consider a plan that would allow teachers to choose between the high-deductible health care plan the district wants, or keep their preferred provider plan, according to co-president of the union, Cindy Bowen.

"I think the talks were definitely good last night," she said. "They're definitely moving in the right direction." 

Board member Alex Sharpe said, from the board's perspective, negotiations went well and progress was made. 

"We had some good conversations, and we were able to come up with some good compromises on some issues," he said. 

Sharpe added that the board is hoping to come up with a tentative agreement and delay any strike that could happen. 

However, he said ultimately it is the union that decides whether or not a strike will happen. 

Another negotiation session is scheduled for this Thursday. Bowen said the board is still planning to strike if a tentative agreement is not reached by the end of Thursday night's meeting, during which time the association will re-state its intent to strike. Legally, the union must notify the district at least 48 hours before a strike may occur. 

However, she added the union is hoping to come to the table Thursday night and negotiate and agreement. 

"We've made progress, but there's still a ways to go," she said. 

Currently, teachers pay nothing toward their health insurance premiums. Per year, the district pays $18,000 a year for each family plan, and $6,800 a year for each single plan. Overall, the district says it pays about $8 million a year to provide health insurance to teachers. 

As for salary, teachers make about $60,825 a year on average, according to the district. The highest salary, for a teacher who has reached the top of the salary scale and has a doctorate, is $73,704. 

The district sent out a letter to parents, discussing what may happen if a strike were to happen. The letter said the district does not have the resources to provide instruction to students without teachers. However, it is working with the Pennsylvania Department of Education to ensure seniors will still be able to graduate on time. 

All time missed due to the strike may be rescheduled, per the PDE's rule that all districts provide 180 days of instruction to students. This means make-up days could be scheduled for holiday and summer breaks. In the letter, the district also emphasizes that make-ups "might" happen, not that they definitely will. 

All school-related activities, including sports, will also be cancelled. 

Students of Franklin County Career and Technology Center, Franklin Learning Center and any other programs not staffed by district employees may still attend class at those facilities. Transportation will be provided on a limited basis. 

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The Chambersburg Public Opinion.

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