Last updated: February 26. 2014 11:09PM - 2927 Views
By Joe Healey jhealey@civitasmedia.com



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EXETER – Snow days have chipped a possible second teachers’ strike in the Wyoming Area School District down to two days.


Melissa Dolman, president of the Wyoming Area Education Association, said Tuesday night after the Wyoming Area School Board’s combined work session/regular meeting that the brutal winter took a toll.


“We originally had 11 days,” she said. “But we’ve already used nine snow days.”


Unionized teachers called a strike in September and walked out of the classroom after only three days of school. The teachers returned Oct. 4, when they were required to by law and have been working under terms of an expired contract since August 2010.


Salary, health care and health care opt-outs are the primary sticking points.


Dolman said she’s hopeful the sides will agree to contract.


The district’s and the union’s final offers are in the hands of a neutral arbitrator, whose decision is expected on Monday at the latest. If either side rejects that recommendation, the union may call a second strike.


But because all classes must be finished by June 30 under state law, there would only be two days left to strike and that’s if there are no more snow days this school year.


The board also discussed the district’s policy to rent its facilities.


The Northeastern Pennsylvania Council of Boy Scouts of America asked to use the Secondary Center gym for “District Derby Day” from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 26, with setup time the night before.


The scouts asked the board waive the $300 gym fee and the $25 fee for custodial services.


Superintendent Ray Bernardi said district policy has six classes of groups ranging from school groups, which pay nothing, to private companies that pay full rental prices. But many community groups, such as Lions Clubs and Little Leagues, fall somewhere in the middle.


The gym costs $300, the auditorium costs $500 and the football stadium costs $1,000. And a $25 fee could be added if janitorial services are needed. A $25 fee is also levied if the kitchen is used because a cafeteria worker must be present according to state law, Bernardi said.


But policy also says the fees may be waived at the board’s discretion.


Board members Jerry Stofko and Mary Louise Degnan voted “no” on the measure that waives the fee. The rest of the board voted “yes.”


“I don’t think we should go against the policy on this,” Stofko said. “We shouldn’t be selective on who gets the fees waived.”


Bernardi said the group is nonprofit, which would allow it to use district facilities at no charge, but it is based out of the district, which would require a charge.


Audience member and frequent board critic Robert Trusavage, the father of two Eagle Scouts, said he would pay the fee if the board did not waive it.


In other business, the board:


• Voted to initiate the process for a districtwide feasibility study for all district buildings. Board President Estelle Campenni said the board is trying to be proactive.


“Several years ago we considered closing a building,” she said. “But we were really looking mostly at enrollment. Now we want to get a feasibility study on all of the buildings, the cost to run, the cost to maintain them, enrollment issues, the entire package.”


District buildings include the Secondary Center in Exeter, John F. Kennedy Elementary in Exeter, Montgomery Avenue Elementary in West Pittston, Tenth Street Elementry in Wyoming and Sarah J. Dymond Elementary in Harding. The district previoulsy considered closing JFK and Dymond schools, but ultimately kept them open.


Members Degnan and John Bolin voted against starting the study.


• Voted to accept, with regret, the resignation of George Miller, the official timer for the Wyoming Area (and before that West Pittston High School) football games. Bernardi said Miller has been performing the duty for 61 years.


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