LM teachers will be 'working to the rule' After-school tutoring, chaperoning school events will stop, as per new union policy
MANDATA - Line Mountain School District teachers will not be offering any after-school tutoring to students or chaperoning any school events for the duration of the new union policy of "working to the rule."
These two examples are among a list of volunteered duties that the Line Mountain Education Association (LMEA) will not be performing to demonstrate its frustration with the status of contract negotiations with the school board.
"We will go above and beyond in the classroom, but being taken advantage of will have to stop," said LMEA president Mark Shearer Tuesday.
Teachers have been working on an expired contract since June 2012, which was a one-year extension of a five-year contract that ended June 30, 2011, that guaranteed educators a 3 percent raise each year.
Items to stop
The teachers will only be performing the duties as outlined by the collective bargaining agreement, but will not be do any work voluntarily beyond those terms and conditions in the contract.
That means they won't be chaperoning school events, they won't be offering after-school tutoring to students, they won't be writing college recommendations for students, they won't be meeting with parents outside contracted meetings, they won't be serving on any committees and they won't be participating in any fundraisers.
Planning homecoming, proms or other events outside the work day will be stopped, he said.
Shearer said teachers are often involved in Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings, but under the new policy, the teachers may have to excuse themselves from those meetings if the time runs over.
There could also be issues with late bus arrivals when teachers are on duty. Once 3:45 p.m. comes, Shearer said the administrators will have to take over the supervision of those students waiting for transportation.
Unless the duties are detailed in the contract, the teachers will not be doing it, he said.
There are countless other duties that will no longer be performed as well, Shearer said.
Grading tests, preparing for lessons and entering grades will still be done even if it's not done during the school day, he noted.
"There's a big difference between daily duties to be prepared for school and being taken advantage of for after-school work," Shearer said. "You expect to do those (preparation) things, but we're trying to draw the line there."
Shearer said the decision to implement this policy did not come lightly, but expenses and cost of living have increased in the last few years and it's difficult to support a family without compensation.
The purpose of the move, Shearer said, is to demonstrate to the school board the great amount of work teachers do voluntarily - both before and after the work day - for which he said they do not receive compensation nor expect any.
The teachers are looking for a "non-insulting" salary and contract, he said.
A first-year teacher at Line Mountain makes a minimum of $32,838, and a teacher in his or her 17th year can make $63,582, plus receive a pension.
Based on 2011-12 figures, Line Mountain teachers were paid an average of $48,259, ranking 460th in the state's 501 school districts.
Paul Shemansky, spokesman for the Northeastern Region of PSEA, said teachers across the nation volunteer 12 to 14 hours each week outside their contracted hours.
"They don't think the board respects them and they want to show them and the general public all these things," he said.
Based on the teacher contract, "working to the rule" means teachers are only willing to work the minimum required 7 1/2 hours per day, 186 days per year, with three personal days and 10 sick days. Under "working to the rule," they can still be required to attend three evening meetings per year, such as orientation, graduation and parent-teacher conferences, without additional pay.
Under normal circumstances where teachers work additional time, as required by the district, they are paid $22 per hour.
School board President Troy Laudenslager criticized the union Monday and said they were the ones who were not being cooperative.
Shearer said he did not want to respond yet to Laudenslager's comments from Tuesday's article in The News-Item, and the union would be issuing a second media release later this week to address what was said.
Asked whether the teachers would ever consider striking, Shearer said he wouldn't want to remove the option from the table.
"There have been no discussion of going on strike. Our advisement from PSEA is that we're definitely not at that point," Shearer said.
Old Forge School District teachers in Lackawanna County and Wyoming Area School District teachers in Luzerne County have been striking since Sept. 3 while their negotiations with the school board have been contentious.
State law allows teachers to strike twice in one school year, and a first strike must end when 180 days of school cannot be completed by June 15.
Old Forge teachers ended their strike Sept. 24 while Wyoming Area must end theirs Friday.
In Mount Carmel Area, the majority of the district's 113 teachers picketed the contract negotiation meeting Sept. 18 and the school board meeting Sept. 19 as a way to call attention to the fact that the union has been working under an expired contract since June 2012. Teachers said they have been working toward a "reasonable and balanced resolution" with the school board since January 2012.
The Line Mountain School Board will meet with the LMEA Thursday to discuss contract negotiations.