MANDATA - Line Mountain School District's negotiator said Thursday there is both good news and bad in the fact that the teachers union has set a strike date should no progress be made toward a new contract.

"It's never good to set a strike date," said Ben Pratt, an attorney with the CGA Law Firm, York area. "We appreciate it that they set it for two months (from now, Nov. 5). That allows us to come to an agreement without any disruption in education at this time.

"We're hoping the association is willing to compromise and come to a solution with the contract," he said.

Pratt could not be reached for comment Wednesday night after union representative Mark McDade reported the strike date. That came after a meeting of the district's approximately 100 teachers.

McDade said Wednesday night the teachers set the date two months out to allow time for "fruitful negotiations." He said the teachers were "cautiously optimistic" that an agreement could be reached before that date.

McDade has otherwise been critical of the board, saying it hasn't bargained in good faith. He first reported in early March that members of LMEA had authorized the option to strike with, as required by law, 48 hours notice. In May, he said a strike "appears to be imminent" and could happen during the 2013-14 school year. After an Aug. 18 negotiation schedule fell through, McDade said teachers planned to strike, and it was thought that might happen before the start of the school year.

School began Tuesday, however, with no strike. And now it seems there will be none until at least Nov. 5.

A 'poorer community'

In a statement released late Wednesday, Troy Laudenslager, school board president, who along with others has been critical of McDade's comments and actions, focused on the most recent contract offerings from the board. He said they are fair, especially when compared to the average income in the district.

Laudenslauger said the starting salary for teachers at Line Mountain has risen 32.49 percent since 2003 to $32,838, while the top-level salary for someone with a bachelor's degree rose 19.16 percent to $59,557.

"The community punished teachers for 20 years after their last strike. It took until 2003 for school board members that were too young to remember the last strike to increase their wages up to industry standards," wrote Laudenslager.

Also, he said, teachers receive the equivalent of 13.8 weeks of vacation, all major holidays off, three personal days and 10 sick days per year, health insurance plans that include eye and dental coverage and pension plans that "continue to pay them nearly the same amount as while they worked until the day they die," wrote Laudenslager.

"We are being heavily supported by a community that recognizes that the starting salary alone for a teacher would be higher than the average salary in Northumberland County," he wrote. "I believe it is a mistake to ask people making less than a starting teacher to pay more taxes for teacher salaries. More money doesn't guarantee a better education for our children - it guarantees a poorer community."

Expired since 2011

The current contract expired at the end of the 2010-11 school year. Every employee in the district took a pay freeze for the 2011-12 school year, so it was expected the new contract would be retroactive to July 1, 2012. The latest board offer was for a seven-year deal that would extend to June 30, 2019.

Teachers have been "working to the rule," meaning teachers work during the contracted 7 1/2 hours and nothing more, since Sept. 30.