Wyoming Area School District teacher contract negotiations may have come to the front page in recent weeks, thanks mostly to the union announcement of plans to strike Sept. 3, but the West Side district is just one of many with unions and school boards hashing out deals as a new school year approaches.
When the union gave the school board official notice of the planned strike last month, Wyoming Area union President Melissa Dolman said the strike was set in hopes of breaking the stalemate in discussions, and that the picket lines may not materialize if substantial headway is made in negotiations.
Wyoming Area teachers have worked under the terms of a contract that expired Aug. 31, 2010, and haven’t been receiving raises. As a result, their average pay has slipped from fifth highest among Luzerne County’s 11 districts to lowest.
Similar stagnant pay is possible for seven other teacher unions in Luzerne County. As the new school year approaches, teacher contract negotiations are under way at Greater Nanticoke Area, Hanover Area, Hazleton Area, Wyoming Area, Wilkes-Barre Area, the Wilkes-Barre Area Career and Technology Center and the Luzerne Intermediate Unit.
The last two are multi-district entities.
The career and technology center serves five districts on the east side of the Susquehanna and is run by a joint operating committee composed of representatives from the member school boards. The LIU is a regional entity that provides a variety of services for area schools, and is run by a board comprised of representatives from 12 area districts.
Support staff negotiations
Negotiations are also under way for five unions representing school district support staff, which generally includes custodians, secretaries and aids: Crestwood, Hanover Area, Wilkes-Barre Area Career and Technology Center, and two unions in Wilkes-Barre Area, one representing secretaries and aides, the other representing crossing guards, custodians and maintenance workers.
Wilkes-Barre Area is unusual in having the support staff split into two unions. That quirk, combined with the need for a new teacher contract and a new deal for administrators, means the county’s second-largest district will likely start the 2013-14 school year with four contracts up in the air.
The 2013-14 budget was drawn up without any money set aside for possible pay increases if settlements are reached.
The Crestwood School Board and the support staff union had reached a tentative agreement in May, with the agenda for a special meeting May 30 including a vote to accept or reject the proposal.
But board member Gene Mancini noted the union apparently had questions about the agreement and the board tabled the vote. A call to lead union negotiator Virginia Cowley seeking an update was not returned, and Pennsylvania State Education Association Northeast Region spokesman Paul Shemansky said he did not know the status of the contract talks.