MCA rep has hope for deal
By Justin Strawser
MOUNT CARMEL - The president of the Mount Carmel Area Education Association said progress was achieved in the latest contract negotiation session with the school board and he's optimistic a deal could be finished at the next meeting, which is Wednesday night.
"I would hope we can get a deal finished," Joe Varano said Monday. "I think it's realistic to think it could happen on Wednesday."
The majority of the district's 113 teachers picketed the contract negotiation meeting on 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.
MCA teachers are among the lowest paid teachers in the state by average: the district ranked 489th of 500 districts in the 2011-12 school year with an average salary of $43,834.
The school board members argue that the district is not as financially well off as the union claims and faces serious concerns involving escalating retirement and health care costs.
Negotiations between the two entities hit a stalemate in May when the school board accepted the report of a Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board fact finder, but the union rejected it.
Varano said the meeting Wednesday will not be picketed, but the school board meeting on Oct. 17 has not been ruled out for a demonstration.
"We can't determine the next step until we see what happens Wednesday. Hopefully, we don't have to (picket). Hopefully this will be finished," he said.
Board president Donna James refused to say anything Monday when contacted for comment.